Thank god for the Classics, that time of year when we can consign the dreadful middle-eastern races to the barely remembered dustbin of cycling history and concentrate on proper racing. And to celebrate, the latest edition of Rouleur (Issue 61) is positively Flanders-tastic. Just as my heart invariably sinks at the sight of an early-winter cyclocross cover, my heart positively raced at the sight of a Spring cover featuring cobbles and Flandrian flags.
Kicking the issue off is Martin Procter’s cartoon take on Paris-Roubaix related products that you might (but probably won’t) see in the Rouleur shop. It’s a gentle joke at the magazine’s expense, and really rather good. I particularly liked Procter’s Surreal Sunday Art Print — a very clever mash-up of The Persistence of Memory and Guernica. I reckon they probably could sell that if Martin did a more detailed version. The Favourite Things piece is about Bernie Eisel, in which he reveals that he reads Kafka and Mann as well as Ken Follett, he likes Goya and funny shaped bikes, and that he wears Paul Smith and likes avenues of trees. Not what you’d expect from a pro cyclist, and a timely reminder that they’re not all empty-headed dullards.
The first big feature is about the Ronde van Vlaanderen and features eight snap-shots from the history of the Ronde, and six profiles of the Lions of Flanders. The words by Paul Maunder are interesting and the illustrations by Simon Scarsbrook are delightful. A thoroughly enjoyable read. Next is a Q&A with Tom Boonen about his relationship with the Ronde, which is better than your average Q&A and concentrates on that relationship rather than trying to be a rider profile or an extended palmares.
Ian Cleverly’s piece on the highs and lows of running, and riding for, a Continental development team (An Post-Chain Reaction) is also a good read. I enjoy these glimpses into a world I know little about, and anything with Sean Kelly in is good in my book. Following on from this is an interesting piece about the VAMberg, the iconic climb of the Ronde van Drenthe, which apparently is actually a gigantic mound of rubbish. And I liked the story about how the Cota de Witteveen, as climbed in the 2009 Vuelta, is a totally imaginary mountain put into the race to create the first KoM.
The piece about cyclists/DSs called Van Something (in this case Van Hooydonck, Van Schueren and Vansummeren) is also pretty interesting, and Rouleur manage to get more out of pro interviews than other magazines. But I couldn’t get very excited about the POC factory tour (POC helmets are mostly hideous-looking), although the photos are really nice.
Finally there’s a lengthy piece about the Strade Biache, one of cycling’s most beautiful races. Written by Colin O’Brien, and with beautiful photos by Paolo Ciaberta, it’s a gorgeous article that captures the essence of this race and raises some interesting points about how new races can succeed if they’re staged in the right place.
And that’s it for this issue. All in all a good effort from the team at Rouleur, with lashings of Flandrian goodness and a luscious dessert of Tuscan Strade Bianche.