Issue 59 of Rouleur is upon us, and it’s another reasonable effort by the certifiable lunatics at Gruppo Media. By steadfastly refusing to conform to publishing norms, Rouleur continues to stand apart from the crowd. It’s resolutely grown-up and eschews the “Top Ten Greatest…” type articles in favour of considered, properly researched, and slightly left-field articles about the world of road racing. Branded pretentious by some, and achingly self-conscious by others, it nonetheless treads its own path.
So this issue we kick off with a hefty piece about Jan Ulrich, the man forever in the shadow of Lance Armstrong, written by The Danes (the Danish journalist and photographer duo of Morten Okobo and Jakob Kristian Sorensen). I’m not sure what I think about The Danes. They do a lot of stuff for Rouleur, but it’s often pretty challenging stuff. They did a two-part feature about Lance Armstrong a while back, and now they’re doing a two-parter about Ulrich. I’m guessing it will be Riccardo Ricco next.
But this is not a potted biography of the man with a few quotes thrown in, as you so often get in Pro Cycling and Cycle Sport. This is altogether different. It’s an attempt to peel back the protective layers and examine the man within. In doing so, Okobo reveals a lot about himself as well. Normally I would hate this kind of thing…journalism should never be about the journalist. But this is a different form of writing. And it sort of works. I’ll wait until part 2 before forming a proper opinion, but so far it is engaging, and I’m looking forward to the big reveal in part two (assuming there is a big reveal…there wasn’t in the Armstrong one).
Next is a lovely piece that is exactly the sort of thing Rouleur does so well…it’s a piece about an artist who does paintings of cycling — Jeff Parr. There’s not a huge amount of text, but there are six examples of his work, all of which merit examination. This is the kind of story you would never find in the mainstream cycling press, but it’s beautiful. And only Rouleur would dare use one of Parr’s semi-abstracts as a full-bleed double-page spread.
Another heavyweight feature comes in the form of a piece about the French Europcar team. It’s a fascinating look behind the scenes with one of the smaller teams operating on a tiny budget compared to the likes of Sky and Tinkoff. It’s also a very good vehicle for examining the problems of funding top-level cycling teams and bringing through young French talent.
Following on from this is an interview with…yes, it’s Geraint Thomas! Yaay! It’s been several minutes since I last didn’t read an interview with him, and in an effort to maintain consistency I didn’t read this one either. I’m sure Rouleur’s version is better than most, but I just don’t care.
But I do care about the Giro di Lombardia, the race of the falling leaves. It’s a beautiful and historic Classic, held in one of the most beautiful places imaginable. And Colin O’Brien tells the story of the 2015 Lombardia very well indeed. Tagged onto the end of the feature is a short and slightly odd piece about testing Sportful’s Fiandre range of clothing. It doesn’t really fit the Rouleur style, but it was an opportunity to ride with the Tinkoff team for a day.
Another slightly odd feature is the one about the UCI driving course, aimed at making sure members of the press don’t knock riders into barbed-wire fences. Like the author, I expected this to be a practical lesson in road-craft for convoy drivers. It wasn’t. It was a lengthy and boring PowerPoint presentation. The author does his best to analyse why there have been so many accidents this year, but doesn’t really go into any depth. Clearly Rouleur found this a frustrating experience, as does the reader.
Who doesn’t love a cycling article that kicks off with a quote from Steinbeck, eh? This one is about the Tour of California, and is slightly unusual in that it is written by Tom Southam, a DS with the Drapac team. It’s an insider’s view, and all the more interesting for that. I’m not a huge fan of the ToC (all those tossers in fancy dress running alongside the riders get right on my tits), but it’s a good piece. The choice and use of photos, however, has me scratching my head…too much blurry photography cropped in peculiar ways. I’m all in favour of arty stuff, but this is just silly.
And that’s your lot. It’s not a bad issue, but it’s not one of their best. Maybe organising their Rouleur Classic bike show has caused them to take their collective eye off the ball slightly. Let’s hope for better things next issue.