Many will be meeting new teammates for the first time, new kit, new bikes, new expectations. After months of social rides and training camps, it’s back to business. On Saturday Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, followed hot on its heels by Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne the following day.
Like the first day of school, nerves buzz around the peloton. Even the hardest of training rides is no comparison to what’s about to happen. Everyone waits for the start impatiently and expectantly. The first taste of burn in their legs and lungs, the surge of the peloton, the organised chaos, crashes and near-misses, the white intensity. This is it – the season starts here.
These previously unpublished photos by Camille McMillan capture the start of the 2009 season at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne…
Photographer Camille McMillan has contributed to publications such as Rouleur and collaborated with Team Sky pro Michael Barry on ‘Le Métier – the seasons of a professional cyclist’. A new updated second edition is now available.
Above & Top: A last minute piss, and some final words of advice. A bleak Belgian car park plays host to the team’s preparations – it’s many miles away from the sun and glitz of the summer grand tours.
Right: New season, familiar rituals. A CC Bourges rider gives a team mate a hand pinning on his numbers.
Trouble with a new gadget? Or maybe showing off his winter mileage stats? And does the plaster on his knee hide a nick from the first shave of the year?
A Kingston Wheeler’s prize giving from the early sixties. Obviously a more formal affair back then.
At the end of last season I was fortunate enough to win a trophy at my club’s annual prize giving. I can only assume it was a lean year. On the bus home at the end of the evening I realised that the cup was in fact older than I was. And after finding my way around the hotchpotch of engravings I discovered the first winner was some lad called T.C. Sharpe way back in 1957. It may have been this, and the sense of history and legacy it conjured, or the several pints I’d consumed in celebration, but a lump formed in my throat. I felt a little emotional.
A few years previously I turned up to one of the Kingston Wheelers‘ regular Sunday club runs. I’d blotted out my fears at being out of place on my cumbersome hybrid with its flat bars and triple chainring. My intimidation mounted as the car park used as the meeting point started to fill with a cornucopia of expensive looking equipment. As the various groups filed out onto the road I latched on to the one billed as the slowest. No one laughed at my helmet with its attached visor, or my slightly baggy jersey, or my ugly commuter’s bike with its comfy padded saddle, and within the space of a morning and a few hills in the Surrey countryside I was ready to sign up and become a member.
Photograph of fixed gear menace by Outlier
Riding in London you encounter all types. In images of cycling cities – Shanghai, Copenhagen, Amsterdam – the cyclists filtering through the congested roads look as if they’re all riding the same bike. Upright, practical, utilitarian, and anonymous. Over here there is no typical cyclist, each one encountered is different to the next – businessmen on Bromptons, sensible office workers on hybrids in high-viz, sporty types with dropped bars and lycra shorts. But there are some that float above the rest of us – not necessarily faster, most certainly not safer, but insufferably cooler.
I’ve played by the rules my whole life; fearful of authority, worried about parental disapproval. I wear a helmet, I stop at red lights, I avoid undertaking busses. My cycling clothes are sensible and practical, my commute treated like any other ride. I’m conscious of my lack of cool, but feel gripped by good sense and manners.
I regularly encounter on my ride to work my commuting nemesis; like the group of lads that hung around at the far end of the playground sharing cigarettes, I am lured by his disregard for rules and authority. His clothes tread carefully the line between practicality and style – dark, a slim cut jacket, jeans, black Sidis and cycling cap, messenger bag slung over his shoulder. His bike a stripped down fixie, simple, elegant. No doubt, on closer inspection, it would reveal nods to obscurity, an eye for tasteful componentry. But most of all, he glides.
…last summer I had a great week riding in southern France with Tarik Djeddour as part of a test run for his new Étape Reine Cycling training camps. Part of the week was taking on the Cinglés du Mont Ventoux challenge, and you can read my account of that hot day in the saddle here. Tarik is now ready to take bookings for the coming year, running a programme of camps that will appeal to both sportivists and racers alike, giving you a chance to take on Ventoux and ride the route of the The Tour du Mont Aigoual (the race featured in Tim Krabbé’s ‘The Rider’). Check out his new website, or visit his stand at the TCR Show which runs from this Friday 11th until Sunday 13th February…
…it appears all the speculation was right – the Olympic 2012 road race route will pass through Surrey and wind its way up the iconic Col de Box Hill. Not much of a challenge for these finely honed Olympic athletes, admittedly. Even Cav should get up it without too much problem. Aside from the novelty and convenience for local cyclists to have the race passing their doorstep, it might also mean some of the roads used will get a much needed makeover. The challenge of ascending Box Hill is currently more about the road surface than it is the gradient. Let’s hope they do something about the quality of the cakes too. You can see the full route here…
…the UCI has announced a new series of races for amateur riders. The UCI World Cycling Tour will consist of fifteen events that will offer the chance to qualify for the UWCT final. So in future if you see someone lapping Richmond Park in a World Champion’s jersey think, before you start tutting, that they may actually have earned those stripes…
…the excellent blog The Inner Ring has moved home, had a bit of a tidy up, and is now at a new address – www.inrng.com. The blog has gone from strength to strength over the past year, quickly establishing itself as the best source for pro cycling news, insight and analysis out there – mainstream press included. So update your bookmarks!…
Ben clinches 3rd place in the recent Red Bull Hill Chasers event. Photography by Roman Skyver
Condor Cycles is a London institution, with their own iconic brand of bikes, and long-standing shop on Gray’s Inn Road. They’ve been serving the local cycling community since 1948, and have strong ties with the racing scene, their bikes having been ridden in the Tour de France and by the likes of Tommy Simpson and Bradley Wiggins. They’re also currently co-sponsors of the Rapha Condor Sharp professional team. Ben Spurrier has the enviable job of designing the Condor range, and with his own racing pedigree, the brand is in good hands…
Give us a brief account of your cycling background. I grew up in London and cut my teeth racing at Beastway and in the London Cyclo Cross League. I got my first job in a bike shop at 15 which I kept going through the holidays when at university. I did a block of time as a workshop manager in a large chain where I gained a Cytech 3 mechanic’s qualification, then in 2005 I started at the head office working on the up-coming own brand. This wasn’t the most creative role but it was my big break and it got my foot in the door. It gave me the opportunity to travel to the Far East and I racked up a lot of invaluable experience. I also did a stint in the Product Department at Madison, the importer and distributer of Shimano and other brands such as Cervelo, San Marco and more. I’ve done ten 24hr MTB races (one solo), the Paris-Roubaix VTT stage race twice, Cape Epic MTB stage race, 3 peaks Cyclocross race 3 times, I race cyclocross at league level and in the National Trophy and I have worked as mechanic and tech-support on a UK pro road team.
Photograph of the 2010 Catford Hill Climb by Martin Godwin
“The hardest part about going training is putting on your socks”, so says Simon Gerrans’ coach Dave Sanders. However, for me, the hardest part is actually finding my socks in the first place. And then trying to remember where I put the strap for my heart rate monitor, and then realising I forgot to lube my chain or fill my drinks bottles… and then, before you know it, I’m already late.
So prevalent is the habit of cyclists to run behind schedule that Rapha deemed it necessary to create an iPhone app to help more punctual riders cope with the problems lateness causes. “Where the hell is Fausto?” is their tagline. Now I’m not sufficiently sophisticated and Euro to actually know anyone called Fausto, but I imagine many of my club mates have uttered similar queries that curse my name. The ‘Five Minute Wait’ is the traditional feature to the start of any group ride, and beyond the usual banter (“Been out on the bike much?”, “Are they new wheels?”, etc, etc), is the familiar “Did anyone else say they were coming?”. Or at least I imagine this is what people say – I generally only arrive, sweating and panting, as everyone else is clipping in and about to set off.