Category Archives: Great Britain

Post Tour EuroPro Review Parte Un

I’ve been out of action here for a while for two reasons. Watching this year’s tour has been a full time job for a start. I don’t know about you, but this has been probably the best Tour de France since the last time a British cyclist won it. How often does that happen? Also, I put a lot of my Bespoke panache into the Le Tour du Vin fundraiser that we had last week for our Bike MS team. Oh, and my laptop is now blind. It works, but the screen doesn’t. This makes writing a blog quite difficult. I’m currently tapping this out with one thumb on a tiny virtual keyboard while trying to get a two year old to stop doing Hulk Hogan moves on me and go to sleep. I’ll have to add the pictures later!

I’ve been thinking about a lot of things during and since Le Tour, but always Schwinn Paramount™ on my mind is what it means to be EuroPro. Of course, EuroPro can never truly be achieved. It is an ideal. It is always over the next HC climb or cobbled berg. EuroPro is only truly attained by the Pantheon of Gods, Demi-Gods and Demons that name the hairpins of Alpe d’Huez and the shower stalls at Roubaix, and in very special cases, both.

First of all, before we get into the stylistic elements of what EuroPro is (trust me, those are coming – this TdF has been a rich seam to mine), lets not forget the proclivities, idiosyncrasies and extravagances of the truly EuroPro are all forged in the same fire. Pain. Medievel levels of pain. You can’t ever achieve EuroPro unless you have taken physical and mental suffering so far that you find a sense of satisfaction from it. This is not masochism or martyrdom, it is the knowing that you can hurt far more than you ever have before, and more importantly, more than the guy next to you. It is a badge of honour and a stepping stone on the path to Merckxian Enlightenment. Once you know that you can take that kind of pain, then you know that you can dish it out! Here’s the Bespoke Honour Roll of PainMeisters of the 2013 Tour de France:

1. Geraint Thomas.

Welsh Hardman

Welsh Hardman – ouch that hurt, just give me a second, then I’ll ride another 3,000km full gas.

Stage 1. Fractured pelvis. That has to hurt a lot at the best of times. I can’t imagine what it’s like to ride a bike at race speed day after day, km after km like that. He kept going, his Mum back in Wales begged him to pull out. He kept going. He suffered through the Pyrenees, survived the ferocious pace from Britanny to Ventoux, and then put the hurt on everyone on the flats leading up to the Alpine climbs. Welsh. Hardman. This bodes very well for him one day joining the Roubaix Pantheon. Oh yeah, the reason he missed the tour last year? To grab a fat gold rope at the Olympics.

Drilling it on the front on Étape 14

Drilling it on the front on Étape 14 – oh are you guys hurting, let me turn it up, how about now?

2. Tony Fucking Martin.

Tony Fucking Martin

Tony Fucking Martin – easy girls, he’s taken!

Same shit, different hurt. Tony apparently left half his freaking skin in Corsica (this happens a lot in Corsica, but is usually due to drunken, ginger haired, pale skinned British tourists neglecting to apply sunscreen). How do you come back from that? You win the Mont Saint Michel Time Trial on stage 11 with blood pouring out of your bibs! Tony. Fucking. Martin!

Tony Fucking Martin

Tony Fucking Martin – rocking the Alien movie poster look.

3. Jens

The Jensie

The Jensie – the crown prince of pain.

It’s kind of a cliché to talk about Jens, but holy panéed deep fried shit balls soaked in cognac and set on fire, the man is almost 42. I’m 42. He should not be able to do the ridiculous shit that he does. Does it work? On the Amgen Tour of California? Sure. On the Tour de France? Hey, he makes them chase him down, he makes them pay for their supper. Sure, he’s going to go in reverse like an Italian tank on the last climb (what, WW2 is too soon, reallly?), but, damn, why the hell is this geriatric German who should be wearing Depends™ the last survivor of the breakaway in the big show? Jens must have made a Faustian pact to be dishing out the pain to all the young bucks out there, and wearing cycling bibs instead of a bib to catch his spilled soup. Is this really your last tour Jens? I bet, your last race is next year’s Amgen. You’re going for one last stage win, aren’t you. Shine on you crazy diamond. We’re going to miss you at the big show.

That’s just my shortlist. Of course, there were other PainMeisters out there. Who were yours? Chava? Ted King? Let me know who I’ve missed out, and why. More TdF EuroPro action to follow soon.


Wiggo loses time in the Giro - photo AP

Wiggo loses time in the Giro – photo AP

Team Sky set out with a very bold statement in their debut year, 2010, that their mission was to put a British rider in the Maillot Jaune on the Champs Élysées within 5 years. After their first Tour de France that year, it really looked like a hollow promise. The team was far too aggressive on the early climbing stages and ill-equipped to back up that bravado with any results. They obviously had a pool of talent but just looked like a newly promoted small town championship football team taking on the might of the Mancunians (sorry to my American readers for the English football analogy, but there’ll be some more later).

The next year Wiggins was looking much stronger and the team more cohesive, but a crash in the first week put paid to any GC hopes. EBH nabbed a great stage win and he and Thomas both showed great promise as puncheurs.

2012 could not have gone better for them. Their GC squad looked like (and drew unwelcome references to) the Postal Train of the previous decade. Wiggins won all his tour targets with consistent climbing and imperious TT performances. His colonels on the climbs, Froome, Porte and Rogers made it all look so easy. We did get to see the first signs of trouble between their top two GC men with Froome’s ‘Hinault’ moment and the WAGs’ (that’s wives and girlfriends for the non-Premiership followers) twitter fight.

This year has seen a reversal of fortunes for our two protagonists as Froome has flourished out of Wiggo’s shadow. There’s been some more handbag waving with Bradley’s flip-flopping statements about who would be leading the team for this year’s TdF. I’m sure it’s a huge relief for Froome that Wiggins won’t be there on Saturday

Porte has proven himself more than capable of winning big stage races with Paris-Nice this year, and Uran was superb in the Giro. Where I’m heading with this is that it’s hard to keep a team cohesive when there are so many stars and not enough water carriers. Cycling is an unusual sport in that, unlike football, the whole team works to get the win, but only one of them (or two as is often the case with Sky) gets to stand on the podium. The rumours suggest that Uran is being wooed away by other teams looking for a GC leader. If he goes would Henao follow? They’re both ideally suited to the steeper climbs of the Giro and Vuelta and even though Porte is supposedly being groomed for a Grand Tour, presumably that would be the Giro or Vuelta and he could be up against the arguably better climbing skills of his current Colombian teammates on whatever teams they end up on. With Sky’s British-based team and Commonwealth preferences for leadership, you can imagine Uran might think he’d rather get a real leadership role where he isn’t having to make up time lost nursing Wiggins up the hill.

With their meteoric rise, and dominating performances, the comparisons to Postal have been inevitable. Aside from the predictable doping rumours, people refer to the Postal Sky Train style of racing. It’s certainly not as entertaining as a Voeckler breakaway or Contador dancing on the pedals up the Alpe, but it gets results like Georgie Graham’s boring, boring, boring Arsenal. Also like Postal, they’ve been pretty lacklustre in the Spring Classics. One day races really don’t seem to favour the Pain Train style. EBH hasn’t quite lived up to the promise of his talents so far. Poor guy, it doesn’t help him that a certain Mr. Sagan showed up on the scene!

They’ve completed their initial mission two years early, and while you’d think British cycling fans would be jubilant, there’s quite a bit of backlash about the team’s wealth, Murdoch money and, yep, you guessed it, overpriced Rapha kits. Combine that with the superstar roster twittering away at each other and it makes one think of Real Madrid or Man United. Ugh, now I hate them too!

What do you all think? Yes both of you! Are you Sky haters? Who will you be cheering for at Le Tour?