“Ex-riders live their lives in slow-motion. Eddy Merckx. This man has been signing autographs for 200 years. He has a certain look. He looks straight at you but his eyes somehow stop looking two metres before they reach yours. You both glare at the void between you and him.”
This is classic Rouleur material. As Keith Bontrager never said: “Poetic. Pretentious. Insightful. Pick two.” But this is what you get with Rouleur. It’s not easy, and it’s not comfortable, but it is thought-provoking and rarely boring.
The opening quote was from part 2 of their big interview with Jan Ullrich, conducted and photographed by The Danes. The first part left me scratching my head and wondering where they were going with this interview, and by the end of part 2 I’m none the wiser. It is both hugely disappointing and at the same time hugely engaging. If you wanted to know anything about Ullrich the racer, you’re better off waiting for Dan Friebe’s book (The Greatest That Never Was) to come out. But if you want a glimpse beneath the skin of one of cycling’s great enigmas, this is a good place to start. This isn’t so much an interview as the story of a journalist failing to get the interview, but not minding too much and at the same time showing us the ordinary man behind the earring.
Even before you get to the Ullrich “interview” there are two things to mention — Martin Proctor’s excellent cartoon look into the future of pro cycling, and a gorgeous photo of Mount Tiede under the stars, taken by Michael Blann. Both marvelous in their own ways.
The piece on the Mur de Huy is really more about the nature of pain and suffering on a bike than about a steep hill in the Ardennes, but is not bad. The cod psychology at the end is a bit too cod for my liking, but it’s not terrible. However the article about the demise of the Colombia Coldeportes team, and the struggles faced by all lower-level teams, is really good. The gulf between the haves and the have-nots seems to be getting ever wider, and this article shines a bright light on just how hard it is to keep a Continental-level team going. Fascinating, if slightly depressing, stuff.
Next is an article about Fabian Cancellara. He was in London at the end of last year, and every man and his dog conducted an interview with him. To be honest, I didn’t really want to read this, but I’m glad I did because it’s the bits between the quotes, the bits by Andy McGrath, that really allow this piece to shine. And I assumed the following piece about Endura and Moviestar would be a piece of PR puff, but it was more interesting than I expected.
Following on from this is an interview with Ryder Hesjedal. I didn’t bother, I’m afraid. It’s a Q&A, which always feels a bit lazy and doesn’t allow for the insightful gap-filling we got in the Cancellara interview. And it’s Ryder Hesjedal. I don’t care. But the Tour de San Luis article was great, mostly because I know very little about this race, the pictures are lovely, and it contains the least subtle accusations of doping that I’ve ever read. Normally I hate covering races, but the Tour de San Luis sounds brilliant.
And that’s it. Generally a good read, containing some beautiful words and photos, and a tenner well spent in my book. As usual there’s some stuff in there I don’t really “get”, but overall I enjoyed it. And nary a listicle in sight.
I probably won’t be blogging tomorrow on account of a pair of these having turned up, and I’ll probably be far too toroidal to concentrate on blogging.