From Austin to Colorado via the Stages Podcast – Freewheeling interviews JB Hager

This year there was a new addition to the Tour de France coverage – the Stages podcast with Lance Armstrong and JB Hager. Stages was a word-of-mouth success, topping tastemaker lists, making the iTunes top ten, and achieving over 5 million downloads by the time the riders rolled into Paris.

Fans were keen to hear more, and the comments on the Facebook Live feed after every stage was full of requests for the pair to cover the Vuelta later this month.  Although Lance said on-air that he wouldn’t be covering the Spanish Grand Tour, he did hint at covering the inaugural Colorado Classic, which kicks off tomorrow. The event issued a press release announcing an official partnership with the podcast, however just a few days before the Classic kicked off, USADA intervened and declared Lance’s involvement an infringement of his lifetime ban.

If there’s one thing we know about Lance Armstrong though, it’s his steely resilience in the face of a challenge. Less than 50% chance of surviving cancer? Lance ain’t gonna let cancer win. World class cyclist comes down in front of you on a precarious bend? No worries – cycle through a field, avoid a puncture, jump a ditch, rejoin the bunch. The Stages team will be covering the Colorado Classic in an unofficial capacity, which could be good thing, allowing Lance the freedom to tell it like it is without any constraints.

I managed to catch up with Lance’s co-host JB Hager just before he left Austin for Colorado.  Read on to find out about JB’s awesome work with his Bikes for Kids charity, the state of US pro cycling in 2017, and of course – the Stages podcast.

 

Were you surprised by the success of the Stages podcast?

Yes and no. Surprised because I doubted myself. Lance asked me if I wanted to do it just a few weeks before the Tour started and I said “I would love to, but I haven’t been following pro-cycling for over 4 years.”  He said, “Cool, neither have I” so I said, “Ok, I’m in”.

I ran into Lance last December and I wasn’t just blowing smoke up his ass, but I had to tell him how good I thought his “Forward” podcast was. Great interviews, well prepped, engaging.

I wasn’t sure how “Stages” would do until I heard how unfiltered Lance was on the first episode or two. Then I was like, “Holy shit, this is the stuff I always wanted to know” and as a broadcaster I have always had a keen sense of what the audience wants vs. just being safe and beholden to an employer. It was and is genuinely entertaining asking him the insider info about the Tour and professional cycling in general. It’s a fascinating and incredibly complicated sport. You have to keep in mind that he was one of the best tactical racers that did so much in the off-season to be better prepared, like recon, wind tunnel testing and gear R&D.

What I didn’t expect was the global audience that has tuned in. I shouldn’t be surprised because most parts of the world understand the complexities of cycling so much more than Americans. Others ask about team dynamics, the intricacies of the sport, watts, tactics, etc… while most Americans are still hung up on “how do you pee on a bike?”

 

On the Stages podcast, Lance mentioned your involvement with the Bikes for Kids campaign, are you able to explain a little about how the campaign worked?

Sure, I never had a bike growing up but I was always fascinated with them. When I started my radio show in Austin in ’96 I started Bikes for Kids. We would collect money from our listeners to buy bikes, helmets and locks for kids. The most unique thing about the program was that our listeners would nominate the families to receive them. We were looking for kids that weren’t on a charity list, easily overlooked, but they had a neighbor or a co-worker that knew the family had fallen on hard times. They would nominate them and if selected, could elect for the family to come pick up the bikes or they would pick them up and surprise them on Christmas morning. Over the years on the radio it added up to about 2 million in bikes, helmets and locks. We were adamant that they be good quality bikes so over the years we were able to buy wholesale from Raleigh, Giant and Trek.

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JB and Lance in the Airstream Studio for the Stages podcast, July 2017 (Photo: Lance Armstrong, Twitter)

With only 3 riders in the Tour this year, some commentators and fans seemed concerned about the state of pro cycling in the US.  Watching the Tour of Utah last week and hearing about the plans for the Velorama Festival, it seems that pro cycling in America is pretty healthy and has been rejuvinated by some interesting concepts, like Velorama and the Colorado Classic. Do you think we’ll see more US riders coming up through the ranks for future Grand Tours?

I’m certainly not the best equipped to answer this question, but from what I’ve seen in Austin in the last 20 years it’s stronger than ever. In Austin I’m one of the founders of www.drivewayaustin.com , along with another notable bike racer, John Korioth. We wanted to see see bike races on our motorsport complex. This series has exploded and developed a lot of great racers. I know that Criteriums are not the global standard, but being able to do an official race like this every week from late March until the end of October is huge for developing young racers. I may be speaking out of school, but I think we’ll see more of the great American talent when the American sponsors get behind cycling. It’s a well-educated, higher income fan base so it makes sense. I often compare it to motorsports where there are only so many butts that get in the seats of the cars. That is also true in cycling. Great riders need the opportunity to go to Europe, get their doors blown off for a year or two and then get their legs. It can happen.

 

JB was also kind enough to answer a special version of ’30 Seconds With…’, read on to see what he had to say…….

30 Seconds With….JB Hager

 

What was your first bike like, and what do you ride now?

It was a Peugeot Canyon Express rigid mountain bike.  I was a broke college kid working at a steak restaurant. I had unpaid parking tickets and got in trouble so I traded my motorcycle with a co-worker for this mountain bike. My commute to work was about 10 miles. I would get off work at 1am; bike lights were unheard of then.

 

I didn’t get my first road bike until I was about 28 years old. I became friends with the neighborhood bike shop owner because of our Bikes for Kids radio charity and he let me pick what I wanted from his catalog at cost. This was around 1998 and Schwinn did a re-release of the Classic Paramount but it was a painted titanium bike built by Serotta. Honestly, that was my first road bike.  I wish I still had it. I regret just about every bike I every got rid of for various reasons.

 

Now I ride a Madone. Well, I should say I just got back on the Madone. I quit bike racing a few years ago and the weight gain came easily. My daughter, Raleigh Hager, is a Pro-Wakesurfer. She won the women’s world title at age 10 so I hung up the bike and started driving a boat every evening. Now, she’s a teenager and interested in other things so I knew it was time for me to get back on the bike. I kept finding excuses until Lance called about the “Stages” podcast and I was like “Fu@$, I gotta get back in shape!”

I do have to say my fave bike right now is my Surly fixie. I love that thing and my legs are whipped in an hour and a half.

 

Books or Movies? 

Books for sure. The process of going to movies annoys me. Agreeing on a movie is impossible, finding the right seat, people eating and slurping is annoying. I’d much rather wait until I can see it at home, so I read a lot. Especially humor books like David Sedaris, Chuck Klosterman and I still like to revisit some Woody Allen or Dave Barry every now and then.

 

What’s on your mp3 player?

I have an online music series, www.onairstreaming.com, so my musical taste is pretty eclectic, plus I’m out of Austin, Tx, which is the self-proclaimed live music capital of the world. Some of my faves might include Avett Brothers, Ray LaMontange, The National, Band of Horses, Phoenix, Alpha Rev, Fences, The XX, Blitzen Trapper, Cold War Kids, Daughter, Jack White and First Aid Kit just to give you a snapshot but my heart lies with the post-punk alt-rock I grew up with like The Police, Echo and the Bunnymen, Elvis Costello, The Cure, XTC, The Jam, R.E.M., Psych Furs, P.I.L., Talking Heads, U2, The The, The Church.

 

Sorry you asked yet?

 

If you could go back and ride any event from the past what would it be?

Tough question.  There were two rides that had a decade plus jump on me out of Austin. 1st, there was the Swedish Hill Bakery ride on Saturday mornings. This is where I first cut my teeth riding with the big boys. I probably got dropped 20+ times before I could stay in for the 50-60 mi ride and then slowly graduated to the 80-100 mi rides. It was not uncommon to have 100 riders for this hammer fest.  Eventually, the Austin bike scene got segregated by more organized teams and this ride fell apart.

Once I started taking an interest and getting the legs to race, there was the legendary Tuesday nighter in Austin. This was a bootleg, unsanctioned, all category race that happened just outside of Austin for over 25 years. Everyone would meet in the city and then ride an hour warmup out to the 9 mi rolling hill course. It was an unofficial 3 lap race, anyone who showed up was in. I also got dropped from this but more like 50+ times before I could finish all three laps. It was a chance to race against Cat 1, 2 guys and you never knew if Lance or a traveling pro would show up.  I learned how to race there before I ever raced.

 

If you hadn’t worked in radio, what would you have done instead?

Most likely would have gone into the restaurant business. I was a cook at a high-end steak restaurant in Austin, the same place I traded my motorcycle for a mountain bike.  I later became a waiter and I just loved the business. My college internship in radio led me away. My semi-secret passion is writing. I’ve been doing it for local magazines for the last decade. I have a monthly column in Austin Woman Magazine.

 

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Spain, Salads, and Steve Cummings – On the Start Line with Pete Kibble

Last year, we caught up with the U23 rider Pete Kibble just as he was preparing for the next stage of his career, having signed on with the development team Zappi Pro Cycling. After his first six months with the team, we caught up with Pete to hear how he’s been getting along – and to find out what it feels like to be on the start line at the National Championships with Cav and Steve Cummings!
Freewheeling – Hi Pete, when we last spoke, you were just about to join the Zappi Pro team.  What have you been up to since then?
Pete Kibble – I started off the year in Calle, Spain, with pre season training, then we headed across to Italy for our racing campaign, which consists of mostly UCI 1.2 level events and Italian nationals. I’ve also been back home for a stretch focusing on the national road and TT championships.
 
F – What is the average day like with the  Zappi Pro team?
PK-  Well this isn’t the average day for cyclists, but it’s our routine. At 8am I get up then go and weigh-in in front of Flavio (Ed – Flavio Zappi, Italian ex professional cyclist who formed Zappi Pro as a development team for young riders in 2009). Then we go for a 30 minute pre-breakfast walk, before coming back to have breakfast. Afterwards we have a few hours before our ride where I usually try and sneak a coffee and wifi access. We then go out and do whatever training ride we have planned. When we come back we have a salad – that is exactly the same every day, no exceptions! After lunch we have an afternoon nap, then a few hours to ourselves. We have dinner at 6:30 which we prepare and make each day, then we have to be in bed by 10. Not the most glamorous life I know!
 
F –  Sounds pretty good to me! How many races have you competed since joining the team?
PK – I can’t remember how many races I’ve competed in off the top of my head, but it’s a fair few and mostly UCIs in Italy. These races are so hard it’s even an achievement to finish – there are around 200 starters in each race, and usually only 30-50 finish.
 
F – Wow, that sounds pretty hardcore! Speaking of hardcore, you achieved excellent results at the Nationals on the Isle of Man.  What was the experience like?
PK–  It was a great experience, and so cool to be lined up with the likes of Cav and Steve Cummings. I really enjoyed the race even though it was pretty brutal –  the experience of racing around the famous Isle of Man TT circuit was something else (be it a lot slower than the likes of Guy Martin)!
 
F – There was some confusion towards the end of the National Road Race, with riders being pulled from the course.  Are you able to shed some light on what happened and how it affected the U23 riders?
PK–  There was a rule that if the leaders gained over 8 minutes on another group, that group would get pulled out the race. Our group was second on the road, and didn’t get any time checks or warning of when we were going to get pulled until we were black flagged. This meant that a lot of us –  and a large contingent of U23s –  didn’t have the chance to compete for 3rd place in the U23 race.
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F – What a shame! It sounds like a great experience overall though! How has working with the Zappi team changed your riding, both in terms of physically being on the bike, and your mindset?
PK –  I’d say I’m a pretty single minded individual, and know where my strengths lie so I don’t feel the team has changed me much as a rider. I definitely feel it has changed my mindset though, I’ve been learning lots about continental racing. I’d also say that on the downside I’ve become a bit over obsessive with my weight when I’m away.
 
F – What are your long and short term goals in cycling? 
PK – My long term goal is to become a pro cyclist and race Grand Tours. My short term goal is to progress into a bigger U23 development team within the next 2 years.
F -What do you hope to achieve next season?
PK – Next season’s goals will be to build upon the learning curve of this test and try to gain some good results.
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F – Since we last spoke you’ve started to write a blog, which has been a great read and such a good way to keep people updated. How have you found writing about cycling?
PK –  I’ve quite enjoyed writing the blog as it’s nice to have somewhere to record my memories. I also think my family and friends find it interesting to see what I’m up to when I’m away.
F -Top tip for the Tour?!
PK –  I think Richie Porte has a great chance this year. But as a Welshman seeing Geraint’s success,  I’d love to see him go all the way to Paris!
F – We think Porte has the legs for it this year too! Thanks so much for your time and good luck for the rest of your season – we can’t wait until the day we see you racing on the Champs- Elysees!
To keep up with Pete’s European exploits, check out his blog here
For more information on Zappi Pro Cycling, please visit the website

Mountain Bikes, Mud and Mid Wales – Welcome to the World of the ‘Dirty Weekend’!

Photographs courtesy of Clive Powell.

In Part 2 of our Mid Wales series, we talk to Clive Powell of Clive Powell Mountain Bikes based in Rhayader.  Clive runs a bike shop offering rentals and a fantastic restaurant, perfect for hungry riders coming in after a long day in the saddle on one of the legendary ‘Dirty Weekends’ also on offer. The food is sourced locally and cooked by Francine, who also stocks up the support vehicle on nice days to assist with feeding the Dirty Weekenders mid ride! We stopped by for a chat with the man himself…..

Hi Clive, your cycle shop has gone from strength to strength and has become a real hot-spot for cyclists of all persuasions! What kicked it all off for you?

I started my business in 1985 when I was 30 years old. At that time, I was working as a professional ski instructor in the winters, and filling in with building trade work in the summers. I had just given up my hobby of motocross racing, and was looking for something to replace the excitement and adrenalin that I used to get on race days. After a couple of years, I discovered mountain biking and I was immediately hooked. I took to it like a duck to water; the motocross gave me the technical skills, my taste for extreme physical effort gave me the desire, and I could see a way that I could earn a living in the summer working outdoors in the hills of Mid Wales.

I bought some bikes and started off by doing half day guided mountain bike rides. From that pilot scheme I progressed to my legendary Dirty Weekends (fully packaged mountain bike weekends), eventually opening a shop in 1994 to support my activities. I got deeply involved in the sport, racing in mountain biking, cycle cross and a local Hilly Time Trial series which I organize myself. I have a few Welsh titles to my name, and hold some Hilly Time Trial records. Even though bad health meant that I was unable to ride my bike for 8 years, I still now participate in cyclocross races, and the Hilly Time Trial series.

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Clive’s shop in Rhayader – home to bikes, cakes, and the legendary Dirty Weekend!

Wow, that’s impressive! Here at Freewheeling, Mid Wales is the place to be.  Not only is it such a beautiful landscape, but it offers something for everyone in terms of cycle sport.  You seem to offer something for everyone too – tell us a bit about what it’s like to work (and play!) in such an inspiring place…

Currently my business is mostly shop-based. We sell bikes, we rent bikes, we repair bikes, and of course we ride bikes. On the bike I deliver road safety training in primary schools in Powys, and I am a coach for the Bulls Cycling Club based in Builth Wells. Apart from the Hilly Time Trials, I also run some winter mountain bike events. I am really lucky to live in an area that is so good for cycling; not just the fantastic backcountry biking on the bridleways and byways over the hills of Mid Wales, but also the endless opportunities for scenic and almost deserted roads. Even families can find places to ride – for example the Elan Valley Trail – a 9-mile traffic free route built on an old railway and running alongside the reservoirs of the Elan Valley.

Our shop caters for all riders, not just the hard-as-old-boots backcountry riders, but also beginners and occasional riders, plus families, tourists, and of course riders who mostly get their adrenalin kicks at trail centres. We stock a wide range of models, mostly from Giant, but will also be taking on another exciting brand in the near future. We also have a fleet of hardtails for rent, plus hybrids for the Elan Valley Trail, and some electric bikes.
The most popular service that we provide is the repair service. Our mechanic Neil, knows his stuff, is very thorough, and always has time for a good humoured chat with the customers.
What is the area like for…

 …Mountain Biking?

We have a number of routes off-road that are iconic and well known to the MTB fraternity, particularly the old school riders who were exploring the hills on bikes before the advent of trail centres. Mention the Golf Links or the Miner’s Trail to any grey haired mountain biker and watch their eyes light up! All of the routes around here are interestingly technical without being scary or dangerous. And the mud is mostly peaty, which is kind to your bike, and doesn’t stick to your tyres like the proverbial.
Roadies find this a fantastic area to ride in with no less than 7 different roads leading away from Rhayader, and circular routes of as small as 7 miles. Mid Wales is, of course well known for it’s more epic routes such as the Devil’s Staircase and the Trans Cambrian. So, something for everyone on 2 wheels.

…Cyclocross?

The Welsh Cyclocross League has gone from strength to strength in recent years with up to 300 riders turning up to race every Sunday from Mid September to Christmas. The youngest riders catered for are the under 8s, and the oldest are the over 60s. Anyone who wants to give it a go can turn up and ride. A mountain bike will do, and entries are as little as £10 for an adult plus £3 for a day license. Events are held at different venues every week. Cyclocross is a great way to get into cycle racing. It is safe, but exciting and can be very technical.

Most local bikers are just that:- bikers! they don’t categorize themselves as mountain bikers, roadies or whatever. Most of them do road, MTB, cross, time trials and have a stable of bikes. I mean, why limit yourself!

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People who may be unfamiliar with the area managed to catch a glimpse of Rhayader and surrounding area this year on the Tour of Britain TV coverage. What was it like seeing the action live?

The stage through Wales was the hardest of the whole race, finishing at the Royal Welsh Showground in Builth Wells. It made a superb venue, with space for an exciting sprint finish, parking for spectators, trade stands, food, and a range of activities.

First thing in the morning I rode in a sportive. I couldn’t believe just how excited I felt to finish on the actual finish-line of the Tour of Britain, and couldn’t resist doing a sprint for the final 100 metres! In between that and the race arriving, I delivered some mini sessions of road safety training to schoolchildren from the surrounding area, and got to watch the race come in from the roof of the Hospitality Suite. The sun shone and it was one of the most exciting days of the year for me.

 

Events like the Tour of Britain, London 2012, and the Grand Depart of Le Tour in Yorkshire has really given British cycling a boost in recent years.  Have you noticed the sport growing in popularity?

Road racing, and the success of the British riders has done a lot for the sport in this country. It is difficult to assess how much has been due to our athletes, but I do now see kids bringing road bikes to school, and the number of women on the line at this year’s cyclocross races has more than doubled.
What is your favourite piece of cycling kit?

My favourite piece of kit is my cyclocross bike, which I built in 2002 and still race on now. It fits me like a glove and goes around corners like it’s on rails. Even if I get myself a more up to date bike sometime, I will still keep my trusty crosser.
Finally, describe your ideal day on a bike in Mid Wales…

My ideal day on a bike locally is to compete in the Around the Dams time trial. It is a 17-mile course starting off with a 100ft climb the top of the mountain, followed by a winding route through the Elan Valley with no less than 9 technical corners. It is a proper test of bike riding ability, and riders come from all over to take part. There is always a great atmosphere and everyone gathers back at the shop afterwards for the results and coffee and home made cake.
Thanks so much Clive, see you out-and-about on those trails soon no doubt!

 

To learn more, check out Clive’s website here http://www.clivepowell-mtb.co.uk/

Keep up to date with all the Mid Wales fun, events and amazing photographs on the Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/ClivePowellBikes/

Welsh Winners! Hafod Hardware in Rhayader scoop Tour of Britain window display competition

All images courtesy of Hafod Hardware.

In the first of our special series on cycling in Mid Wales, we caught up with the winners of Powys County Council’s Tour of Britain shop window competition – Hafod Hardware in Rhayader.

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Congratulation on winning the Powys County Council window display award, it really was well deserved. Where did you get the items which were on display?

Firstly I’d like to say thank you for giving us the chance to talk about our shop and its window display. We take great pride in presenting our business to the highest calibre and when we heard about the competition for the Tour of Britain window displays, we knew we had to try and do something special. Immediately, my Grandfather, Alan Lewis, recommended that he should go over to the National Cycle Museum in Llandrindod to view the possibility of us borrowing one of the bikes to use in the display. Freda Davies at the museum was more than obliging and allowed us to borrow a limited edition Gold Plated 1987 Raleigh bike. This was to be the centre-piece in our display. They also lent us two cycling shirts that were worn and signed by previous competitors.

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Items on loan from the National Cycle Museum in Llandrindod Wells included past race jerseys and a limited edition Raleigh Centenary bicycle.

What was your personal favourite display item and why?

One of our favourite items in the display was the map of Wales. We cut a silhouette of Wales out of a sheet of ply wood and marked out the route of the Tour of Britain using pins and twine, kind of like the sort of thing you would see in old war movies. It would have been easy to print off an ordnance survey map and mark it out, but we wanted to keep the old style look to it and pay homage to the history of the race.

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Hand crafted route map of Stage 4. “We wanted to keep the old style look and pay homage to the history of the race.”

How did the display come together? 

One of the first things we did was look around the shop and think ‘What items that we stock can we use and are relevant?’.

Bike pumps, water bottles, sunglasses and head torches we all ‘musts’ and we had a few Union Jack flags lying around from our V-E Day window display. Less was more was our motto for this, and we didn’t want to take too much focus away from the bike. Just a few accessories were enough.

How did customers react – did you have many people chatting to you about the display?

Our customers loved it! As soon as we put photos up on social media, we had a wonderful reaction. Many people didn’t realise the race was taking place until they saw our window display. Many people popped their heads into the shop just to say how much they liked the display and a few even asked how much we wanted for the BIKE!

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“A few people even asked how much we wanted for the bike!”

Are you a cyclist yourself?

I do the odd bit of cycling up the Elan Valley which is one of the most beautiful places in Britain. We are very lucky to have it on our doorstep and it is  never taken for granted. My bike seems to have the most use though as a means of emergency transport. I am also a retained fire fighter for Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service, so when my alerter goes, it’s straight on the bike and down the station as quick as possible.

Did any of the other businesses in town mark the race in any way?

Quite a few different businesses in town got involved in the competition in one way or another. The town set up a business group last year and the competition was advertised through the Business Group to encourage more people to take part. Our local arts organisation CARAD made a fantastic arts installation in the town and that also won the first prize in their category.

Did you manage to see the riders coming through the town?

Personally, I had to stay in the shop during the race, but that allowed for my Grandparents to go and watch the race. They took pictures and videos so I was able to get a feel of what was going on afterwards.

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Stage 4 of the 2016 Tour of Britain saw the riders cycle through Rhayader on their way to Builth Wells and the Royal Welsh Showground.

 

What was the atmosphere like in the build up to the event, and how did the residents and businesses owners in Rhayader feel to have riders like Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish visiting the area – if very briefly knowing the speeds they reach?!

It’s always a spectacle. The town turns out in their crowds to support the riders and it brings a lot of people from the outskirts into the town for the day.

You’re obviously very creative as all your window displays are fantastic – how did you apply your creative talents to the Tour of Britain display? (for example, I noticed the excellent use of photoshop for Team Hafod – loved it!)

Over the last few years we have had a bit of fun creating images using photoshop for different occasions such as Christmas, the Olympics and seasonal offers. It sparks a bit of interest on social media, and makes a few people smile who see the images in our shop window.

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Team Hafod on the road!

What does the local area have to offer cyclists who might want to pay a visit after the Tour of Britain?

Rhayader and The Elan Valley really is a cyclist’s paradise. The landscape makes for outstanding scenery and the amenities in the town offer everything you need. We have a fantastic cycle shop called ‘Clive Powell’s Mountain Bikes’ which offer guided cycle excursions, and the number  of pubs and accommodation providers in town make for a cracking cycling break in Mid-Wales.

Can you explain a little of the history of your shop, and your role – both the creative side with local posters, logos and flyers as well as the hardware shop side of things?

Hafod Hardware first opened it’s doors in 1895. Built specifically as and Ironmongers you can tell straight away the shop would be had pressed to trade as anything but. The shop was owned and run by a gentleman called R.D. Ryder, who was a cousin for my Grandfather, for the majority of its time. My Grandparents, Alan and Pauline Lewis, then bought the business in 1999, reverting it back into the family.  I started working in the shop in 2009 after studying Art and Design in Newport University. My first task was to set up an online presence for the shop, creating a website and social media pages. I think in this day and age this is a must as it allows you to reach far more customers and makes marketing to the masses much more manageable. The quieter winter months also allow for me to incorporate my art projects into the business. This season our series of vintage style tourism poster have sold particularly well and we are getting more requests for other local town and villages by the day. As well as being your local DIY store we now offer a range of original pieces from other local partners. We sell ornate pieces from the local forge as well as walking boots from another local trader. Working alongside other local businesses is becoming a great way for smaller towns to market themselves and work together in a time of austerity. We want to be at the forefront of that idea and set a precedence. We will always hold true to the nature of our business whilst being forward thinking in how we can diversify in a changing market.

 

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Alan and Pauline Lewis with Tom Jones of Hafod Hardware take on Open All Hours!

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Don’t forget to visit  www.hafodhardware.com and www.facebook.com/hafodhardware to check out more from Tom, Alan and Pauline!

Find out more about the National Cycle Museum here – www.cyclemuseum.org.uk – we’ll be featuring the museum soon as part of our Mid Wales series.

Clive Powell Cycles can be found here http://www.clivepowell-mtb.co.uk/

From Rhigos to Roubaix – Looking to 2017 with U23 rider Pete Kibble

Here at Freewheeling we love seeing the up-and-coming riders progressing through the ranks and taking big wins. This year Pete Kibble, riding in the Welsh team jersey, won a fantastic second stage of the Junior Tour of Wales atop Rhigos mountain after a gruelling route packed with climbs and traditional Welsh weather! To make it all the sweeter, it just happened to be his last stage race on UK soil as a junior. Next season, Kibble will be riding with Zappi Pro Cycling at U23 level, after recently signing a new contract. We caught up with Pete to hear all about his hopes for the 2017 season and beyond….

Congratulation on signing with Zappi Pro Cycling! How did that come about?

Getting a ride with Zappi’s came from having a conversation with Flavio Zappi at the Ras de Cymru in Wales. We kept in touch since then and he asked if I would like a ride in the summer. It was a hard decision as I also had an offer from a UK team but I weighed it up and felt as though I would develop more by racing on the Continent in tougher UCI races. It’s the entire lifestyle I’m looking at, living abroad, learning to speak Italian; not just the racing.

What was the highlight of your 2016 season?

The highlight of my year was winning the Junior Tour of Wales Stage 2 up Rhigos mountain, definitely. This was my first real big win and to do it on home soil, at my favourite race, just topped it off. I had a few other highlights but this race really topped it off for me.

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‘This was my first real big win…at my favourite race’ – Kibble wins on Rhigos Mountain, Stage 2 of the Junior Tour of Wales 2016. Photo Credit: Huw Fairclough

How have you changed as a rider over the last 12 months? Was there anything specific that you were working to improve?

I wouldn’t say I have changed as a rider style-wise over the last 12 months, but I have progressed tactically, learning how to race better. I would say my biggest improvement came in TT’s this year, knocking my PB down from a 20:40 to a 19:15 and placing highly in most open TT’s I did.

What are your hopes for the 2017 season?

My aims for the upcoming season are to continue learning, and to put in place the building blocks of experience for my career. It will be a big learning curve and the racing will be a whole new experience. It’s also a big step up into U23s, but I aim to get some top 20 results once I get into the style of racing.

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‘I don’t use power meters at the moment – I just go on feel and heart rate’ Photo courtesy of Pete Kibble.

Describe your riding style – do you go for sprint wins, TTs, mountain stages or GC?

My style is definitely suited to racing for GC. I’m a good climber and I like tough terrain. I haven’t got a great sprint so I like races where the terrain dictates the way in which the race will be won. I also like time trials and I do a lot of them.

Which do you prefer, one-day races or stage races?

I definitely prefer stage racing to one day races as it suits my style of riding a lot more; it’s about being consistent which I feel is a strength of mine. One day races are usually decided in a sprint which isn’t my forte.

Who is your favourite rider in the current pro peloton?

My favourite rider has to be Tom Boonen – he’s just uber cool and is an incredible tactician. I mean it takes a hell of a rider to win Paris Roubaix 4 times!

Which cyclist would you say has inspired you the most?

Most inspirational cyclist for me has be Chris Froome. He seems like the most unlikely person to win the Tour de France looking at his background and where he’s come from. He just lets his legs do the talking and has become incredibly successful, winning the Tour 3 times which is phenomenal.

Did you manage to get to the road-side to watch any of the Tour of Britain stages this year?

I watched this year’s Tour of Britain in the Cotswolds on Dursley hill. It was great to see so many spectators and people really embracing the race.

We notice that you’ve started a blog – how are you finding the writing and blogging side of things?

I enjoy writing the blog as it’s something new. It’s good to do as a distraction from training, it will get a lot better when I’m away racing during the season when I have so many new experiences to write about!

What is your favourite bit of cycle kit – what could you not ride without?

My favourite piece of cycling kit has to be Oakleys – I have quite a few pairs. Probably too many…

Stephen Roche feels that race radios and power meters are making racing less exciting, what do you think about such new technology?

With regards to Stephen Roche’s views, I can understand where he’s coming from as there is a lot of data that affects the way races are won – riders become very calculated. In that respect it definitely could be more exciting without the use of so much technology. However there are a lot of plus points with regards to rider safety with the use of radios. Power meters are a really good training tool, and I don’t think a lot of riders will take a lot of notice of their figures during a race. Personally I don’t use power at the moment I just go on feel and heart rate.

Sagan will be riding in the Rainbow stripes for another year after his win in Doha. If you could only win ONE of cycling’s most prestigious jerseys, which one would you choose and why?

My favourite jersey to win would have to be the yellow at the Tour de France. It’s the most prestigious race in cycling and it’s such a large human endeavour to win it. It takes so much to get a result at the Tour de France as it’s 3 weeks of full on racing, and there are so many variables you have to be such a rounded rider and have fantastic support to succeed.

Good luck Pete – we wish you all the best!

Caps Not Hats -Breaking Rule #22 With Walz Caps

Here at Freewheeling, we have a bit of a confession to make…a shocking revelation in fact. So here goes, I’ll share it with you. I, your cycle correspondent of the blogosphere, regularly break The Rules. Specifically, Rule #22 – Cycling Caps are for Cycling. This obviously means I’ll never be accepted as a true member of the Velominati, but that’s the price you pay when you love a good cap. Caps Not Hats indeed.

If it’s a stylish cap you’re after, then look no further than Walz Caps. Handmade in the USA, Walz have a cap to suit everyone, from woollen tweed, perfect for that Eroica ride, to the ‘Map Caps’ range, where you can show off your allegiance to a host of American states or European cycling hot-beds like Belgium or Italy.  And if that hasn’t piqued your interest how about this – that cap you’ve created in your imagination, that design you’ve been doodling in your mind’s eye? Well Walz have it ready to send to you – just log on to http://www.walzcaps.com, click ‘Custom Caps’, and get creating. Yep, that’s right – you can create your very own one-off cycling cap. What could be better than that?

We spoke to Matt, Customs and Wholesale Director of Walz Caps to find out all about the Classic American Cap…Read the interview below!

Describe your role in the company…Currently, my role is Customs/Wholesale Director, which involves inside sales, production, and design.
 
How did the company start, and what was the vision for Walz in the beginning?  The company officially began in 2005 as Walz Caps.  Unofficially, it began with the owner’s aunt, Jackie Walz, who used to sew up welding caps for her husband and his co-workers.  One day a friend and cyclist, saw the caps and asked if she would tweak the design a bit and make something more cycling-specific for him.  She did, and did it so well that word began to spread, and the demand for her “cycling” caps grew.  Her nephew and now the owner of the company, saw that she needed help and offered to purchase the cycling side of the operation from here, and decided to name the company in her honor…Walz Caps was born.
 
Your designs manage to be both fresh, new and exciting, yet fit in with the stylish side of the cycling tradition, how does Walz manage to blend both these features in to the designs?  While we are continually striving to come up with bold, fresh, and exciting designs, we always keep in mind the tradition and heritage that is the foundation for the sport of cycling, and particularly the role that cycling caps have played in that.  Some caps, such as our classic cottons and our ever-popular wools, don’t need to be flashy…they speak for themselves.
 
Where does the inspiration for the Walz designs come from?  It’s truly a team effort.  Anyone and everyone within the company is always welcome to throw new ideas out there.  Some stick, some don’t, but no one person is in charge of product development, it’s a company-wide collaboration.  We also receive numerous ideas from our customers, some of which have ignited the creative spark that’s needed to come up some great designs throughout the years.
 
How do you source the right fabrics?  We work to locate suppliers we believe are the best at what they do.  Our caps begin as raw material, and if that material isn’t the best, there’s no way our caps can be.  And as a company who prides itself on making everything in-house, by hand, and 100% made in the US, we seek vendors and suppliers who are located and manufacture in the US as well.  That’s extremely important to us, and we’ve been pleased over the years to hear how important that is to a large portion of our customer base.
 
Describe the Walz ethos and aesthetic….Pride in what we do at all levels.  The moment an individual visits our site, contacts us by phone or email, or stops in to pay us a visit, our goal is to make sure that their experience with us is nothing short of exceptional.  Of course that experience applies to our products, after all, that’s why people contact us in the first place, but as cliche as it sounds, it’s the relationships that we build over the years that matter most to us.  Nothing makes our day more than hearing from our customers how satisfied they’ve been with not only our caps, but our service.  We want people to feel as though they belong to the Walz family, that they’re a part of what we’re doing. 
 
How are the caps made and how long does it take to make one?  Our caps start out as a roll of material.  From there, they’re cut by hand, sewn by hand, QC’d by hand, boxed and shipped by hand.  As you’ve noticed, I’m stressing the fact that every single cap we make is carefully crafted by actual people who specialize in their roles here.  If I had to put a time on how long it takes to make a single cap from cutting, sewing, and passing QC, all uninterrupted of course!…10 minutes.  
 
The ability for customers to design their own caps is really unique. Do you ever come across some really ‘out there’ customer designs? Similarly, have there ever been any ideas, either customer-designed or Walz designed, that just haven’t worked in practice?  I couldn’t list all of those in this interview, and keep it PG-rated at the same time!  Most of our customers designs are incredible, and there have been many that have caused some envy with our designers.  We always make any design that a customers wants, but we do provide input when we believe that a design may not provide the end result a customer is seeking.
 
Have there been any ideas that haven’t worked in practice?  I’ve never kept track, but many for sure.  Personally, I don’t believe that there’s such thing as a bad design, some just work better than others, and more often than not, you don’t really know until you have an actual physical sample in-hand.  We’ve created designs that look absolutely beautiful on a monitor, look great after they’ve been printed, and then look nothing like what we were expecting.  If it didn’t work, take notes of what needs to be altered, and try it again, and keep trying until you get what you’re after.
 
Do you have a favourite Walz design?  I have many.  My personal favorite is the “Triple Cubed”.  In the spirit of full disclosure, I “almost” designed it, but it’s not so much the design that I love, but rather how the design came to be.  Long story short, I was attempting to create a certain look I had in mind, hit a wrong button in Illustrator, the design went haywire on the screen, I couldn’t recover the original, and after staring at my screen in frustration for awhile, all of a sudden I saw something in that mistake that looked incredible, so I let go and let the cap design itself.  I was a bit nervous when it went live on the site, but as it turns out I wasn’t the only one who found the cap to be good looking;)
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What can Walz fans look forward to in the future?  We just launched a new line of caps, a total makeover of our older line.  Our entire line of wool cycling caps now feature a fully lined interior, as well as our entire line of Velo/City caps.  Our recently launched Build-a-Cap program has been so well received that every day is a challenge to keep up with the demand.  And as always, new designs are in the works, that’s something that will never change around here.
 
Thanks for taking an interest in what we’re doing, we truly appreciate it!

 

30 SECONDS WITH……PETE KIBBLE, WHO JOINS ZAPPI PRO CYCLING FROM VELOCITY GLOBALBIKE IN 2017!

Pete Kibble joins the U23 ranks in 2017 – he’s certainly one to watch! We asked him our quick-fire questions earlier, look out for our full length interview soon!

What was your first ever bike like? An Action Man mountain bike that I rode 24/7.
Books or Movies? Both. Favourite Book – Davis Millar, Racing Through the Dark. Favourite Movie – The Kingsman.
What’s on your MP3 Player? I listen to all sorts depending on my mood, I always listen to music while I’m training. I like Two Door Cinema Club quite a lot.
If you could go for a café run with any cyclist from history, who would it be? Mario Cipollini
If I wasn’t a cyclist I’d be… Race car driver.

30 SECONDS WITH……KRISTIAN HOUSE OF ONE PRO CYCLING!

Tour of Britain star Kristian House answers our quick-fire questions below…

What was your first ever bike like? My first ever bike was a little steel trike. Red and white with solid wheels! My first racing style bike was something I bought out of a newspaper second hand for 150 bucks. It was a pretty basic steel frame with down tube shifters and mid/low range Shimano. I spent most of that year replacing parts one bit at a time as I had money available. Haha…
Books or Movies? Films mostly. I do love reading, but I’m quite picky about it, so if I start a book and after 20-30 pages I’m not hooked I tend to put it down, whereas a movie, I’ll sit through the most dreadful movie ever, all the way to the end!
What’s on your MP3 Player? So much stuff. I really like a wide variety of music, from Outkast, to Bruce Springsteen, to Tiesto and Bob Marley. A real wide mix.
If you could go for a café run with any cyclist from history, who would it be? Honestly, probably the squad from Rapha Condor in 2009/10. We were only a small squad, but we were pretty tight. It would be cool to have them all back together for a cafe ride.
If I wasn’t a cyclist I’d be… Wishing I was? Haha, I don’t know. I’d have been a runner if it wasn’t for cycling. More than likely outside of sport, it would have been something in computers.

EXCLUSIVE – ONE Pro Cycling’s Kristian House On The Tour of Britain, Home Crowds, and Why Split Stages ‘Suck’…

All photographs courtesy of Trevor Mould (Twitter: @MouldyPix)

The 2016 edition of the Tour of Britain was action packed and dramatic, held together by captivating and numerous narratives: Would Dimension Data’s Steve Cummings maintain his lead of less than a minute by the end of the Stage 7 time trial?  Who would be wearing the Chain Reaction Points Jersey on the final podium?  Would Mark Cavendish recover from a bout of illness to take a sprint victory in London?

There was laughter as Sir Bradley Wiggins ‘did a Chris Froome’ and ran up a section of the climb aptly named The Struggle, and sadness that this would be his last ever road race.  Mark Cavendish – who describes himself as ‘fast talking’ – showed the sharp edge of his tongue to a so-called fan who shouted insults to the sprinter from the road side.   And amongst all the drama, there were 8 stages of superb cycling as the race traversed the country.

Each year the Tour of Britain grows in popularity, with road sides packed with spectators, and finish lines ringing with claps and cheers.  One rider who has been a staple of the Tour of Britain peloton in recent years is ONE Pro Cycling’s Kristian House.  We asked the rider what it is that makes the British tour so special.

“Racing your home tour is always going to be special. It’s hard to put into words what makes it special, but it’s like a sense of pride. We travel all over the world racing in other countries… often racing against the same people in their country… so to have a home tour when they come and race here and see how much support it gets is pretty cool. On top of that, having the opportunity to race on your local roads is something pretty special”.

Racing home roads was something that House was able to do on Stage 3 from Congleton to Tatton.  Passing a matter of metres from his own street, the race swept through the village of Middlewich with huge crowds at the road side.  To compete the once-in-a-lifetime race experience, House was one of four British riders in the breakaway that day, eventually securing his highest ever Tour of Britain finish as he crossed the line to take third place.

“Racing through the lanes where I train and live, was pretty special. My village was unbelievable in how they came out to support it. The street was lined from before the start of the town to well out of it. Most of the schools came out with all the kids, people took days off work, it was pretty special. The fact I managed to get in the break that day, and stay away for 3rd was pretty special too”.

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The crowds continued to provide huge levels of support at the road side as the race Wiggins called the ‘hardest Tour of Britain ever’ travelled down the country from the start line in Glasgow on Day 1.  “This year was probably one of the harder ones I’ve done in terms of terrain” explained Kristian.   “I was not 100% for most of the tour, so that added to the feeling. What was pretty amazing was that the crowds were even bigger than the years before… and that was something I was pretty surprised about!”

The numbers turning out to watch the race have increased year on year as the Tour has developed from the early years as the Milk Race, through to the 2.1HC categorized race that it is now.  Have the riders noticed a change in the way the race is perceived, both within the peloton and by the fans?  “Absolutely” says Kristian, “A few years ago, you could tell the riders that came were there mostly because the team had interests in the UK, rather than the riders really wanting to race flat out. You had a mix of riders that were just going through the motions of finishing the year out, and ones that were chasing a contract. Over the last couple of years, the level has stepped up a lot. You’ve got World Tour riders racing aggressively, going for breaks, and actually valuing the quality of the race and the importance of it.  Most years it slots in perfectly with preparation for the Worlds as well, so it becomes even more important for a lot of riders. One of the things the riders have noticed is that the crowds over the last few years have gotten huge. I’ve had riders from all over come up to me and say the crowds are better than the Tour de France! It’s pretty amazing how the UK people, and not even fans necessarily, come out and support the racing”.

The popularity of cycling has also impacted upon the standard of domestic racing as a whole, with weekend races having to turn people away due to over subscription.  “When I look back to domestic racing back in 2006, there was really only John Herety’s Recyling squad that would go abroad, and had the goal of moving riders on whereas now you have 4 or 5 teams working much closer to that level.” Kristian explains. “Obviously as the sport has become more popular with the public, more money has come into the sport at that level and allowed the teams to grow. I think there’s a couple of reasons for that. The obvious one to me is the success of the Olympic teams over the last 8 years, as well as the Tour de France success with Wiggins, Froome, and Cavendish. British Cycling have also invested a lot of time and money through the lottery funding into grass roots, and so the whole level of riders coming through has been at a higher level. Combine all that with increased TV coverage, not just for World Tour races but also for things like the Tour Series, and it’s really just blown up. In my opinion the Tour Series is perfect for the UK as it is short enough to keep the attention span of a non-cycling fan, but still exciting enough for the people who follow the sport. It’s also easily accessible for locals to come and watch”.

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Speaking at the 15th anniversary Cycle Show event in Birmingham this September, Tour of Britain Race Director Mick Bennett compared the current attitudes to the sport to those that were held 30 years ago.  “In the 1980s, you had to go cap in hand to the Local Authorities to get them to recognize cycling as upwardly mobile”.  Nowadays, it is those same Local Authorities who help to fund the Tour of Britain coming to their region.  Manager of the JLT-Condor team John Herety, who lives near Kristian House in Cheshire, explained that the roads in the area were resurfaced as a result of the Tour visit, highlighting a direct benefit to local residents, not to mention the revenue raised through the tourists it attracts.

“We do three route drives with a police officer in preparation for the race” Mick Bennett explains.  “Every roundabout, junction and pot hole is logged”.  That inspires Local Authorities to provide repairs and high level maintenance to those areas affected – after all, who wants to be known as the Local Authority who didn’t repair the pot hole which felled a World class bike rider?  “Some regions are desperate to host the Tour of Britain” Bennett continues, “they bring their maintenance programmes forward as a result”.

The huge popularity of the race has put pressure on the race organisers, as the media and the UCI float the idea of removing the Tour from its current position as part of the UCI Europe Tour programme, to part of the World Tour calendar, which is something the organsiers do not want to see happen.  “I think the formula for the race as it is, is absolutely right” explains JLT-Condor Manager John Herety.  “The mix of teams – World Tour, Pro Continental, Continental, plus six man teams provides an interesting dynamic” agreed Race Director Mick Bennett.  “Eight man teams can make a race predictable”.  Herety agrees, noting that shorter stages, such as Stage 7b held in Bristol this year, also provide the race with excitement.  “The Bristol stage was the best stage.  It was a short stage, with a climb, a good breakaway…I’d advocate shorter stages”.

The Bristol stage was a split stage, with the second half that Herety refers to held in the afternoon.  The morning had seen the riders undertake an individual time trial along the same route.  “Split days suck to be honest!” states Kristian House. “Even though they are generally shorter stages, they are a long day. On top of that because the road race is much shorter, it tends to be flat out… and in Bristol’s case, very technical. That makes it not just physically tiring, but also mentally. Ironically, despite them being so different to a standard day, your process of preparing doesn’t change much for you as a rider. I think it changes a lot more for the support staff to be honest! In between the stages you generally just chill out on the bus, make sure you eat enough, but not too much, and just recover from the morning efforts. Everyone is different, but I try not to sleep, but just listen to music and relax”.

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Whether or not split stages become a feature of the race in years to come,the future for Britain’s very own Tour looks bright.  As JLT-Condor’s John Herety declared, the formula for the race is just right, leading to a fantastic event that can only build upon its successes.  As the Tour of Britain’s most capped rider, we hope to see Kristian House racing on Britain’s roads next September with the rest of the ONE Pro Cycling Team – the race wouldn’t seem quite right without him!

Grand Tour Legend Stephen Roche on Life After Racing, The Dominance of Team Sky, and the World Championships ‘in a desert’

The 15th anniversary of the Cycle Show in Birmingham was the biggest yet, with over 300 of the UK’s brightest and best cycling shops, clothing designers, equipment manufacturers, coaching programmes and purveyors of energy bars, gels, powders and drinks converging on the NEC for what was essentially a three-day festival of the bike.  ITV’s Ned Boulting held court on the Protect Your Bubble stage throughout the weekend, interviewing Grand Tour legend Stephen Roche on Sunday afternoon.  Roche’s interview proved to be warm, witty and entertaining, and offered insights into the Tour legend’s thoughts on the current state of World Tour racing, the up coming World Championships in Doha, and his son’s move from Team Sky.

Ned Boulting introduced the two-time Grand Tour winner to the stage during the afternoon session on the final day of the three-day event.  Roche, who won the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France and the World Road Race Championships in the same year, now runs successful cycle camps in Majorca, which have become increasingly popular with Brits following Bradley Wiggins’ winning performances at the Tour de France and London Olympic Games.

For the former pro, the bike is clearly still a hugely important part of his life.  “If I don’t ride my bike it’s like a pressure cooker…it builds up, then I ride my bike and it goes down again” explained Roche.  “When I was young I learned to enjoy cycling, and then I was lucky enough to become a professional.  Now I’m back enjoying it again.  I participate now – I don’t compete”.

Asked whether retiring his racing wheels to “re-join the human race” had been a difficult process, Roche was keen to stress that they key to feeling content in that decision is to change the way you think about your relationship with the bike.  “Lots of guys have difficulty turning that corner.  But it’s impossible to stay at that level, you shouldn’t keep thinking ‘it wasn’t like this before’…”  Roche was quick to accept that retirement would have an effect on the way he rode.  “I had 9% body fat then, now I have a lot more!  The age is there, and I’m a granddad too…you should be happy cycling, and not keep the past in the present.”

Whilst Stephen can now ‘participate’; it is his son Nicolas who does the competing.  For the past two years, the younger Roche has been an important member of Team Sky, riding in support of Chris Froome.  Prior to that, Nicolas was a member of Tinkoff-Saxo, working as a domestique for Alberto Contador.  Roche was brought into Team Sky “with the potential to win small stage races, take stage wins, and be a good team mate to Chris Froome” explained Stephen.  Nicolas was identified as a key rider to get into breakaways, and was a huge asset to Sky due to his exceptional race craft.

Two years on however, and Nico has made the decision to leave Sky for the BMC Racing Team, once again working alongside his friend Richie Porte.  Both Porte and Nico Roche are riders with excellent palmarès and potential, however with Chris Froome so dominant on the road at present, the only way for talented riders of their calibre to fulfil that potential is to move away from Team Sky.  Ned Boulting, questioning Stephen Roche on his son’s future, conceded “Sky target the Tour de France” and the pair agreed that, with the current crop of riders led by Froome, there’s little opportunity for a “Plan B” to flourish on the Grand Tours.  Sky, it seems, may find themselves as victims of their own success as riders like Roche and Porte move on to pastures new.  Once Froome loses that dominance, Stephen Roche is concerned that there’s “no one there to take up that role”.

Asked whether situations like that at Sky are a result of the modern pressures upon the sport, Roche agreed.  “Racing is totally different now.  There are totally different commercial interests…we have Race Radio and power meters, which can make the race a bit boring.  In my era, nobody jumped up and down for third place.  Now everyone’s racing for a top ten finish.  A top ten placing in the Tour could mean a good contract, more money…”  On the subject of power meters and other in-race technology, Boulting enquired as to what Roche would change to bring back the sense of excitement associated with his own era of racing.  “Abolish car to rider contact, have rider to car contact only. Race Radio damages the spectacle.  We have riders too concerned with power meters, detailed data and calculations.  We do need to move with technology – don’t just throw it out – but make it better.  Otherwise we have riders, tactically not knowing what to do by themselves”.

In the current pro peloton, Roche is impressed with a number of young riders coming up through the ranks.  “A Grand Tour rider survives the time trials, the climbs, the wind, the rain, the crashes…one good thing to come out of the Tour de France are the skilled young riders – Quintana, Bardet, Yates, Alaphillipe…”  His son’s former team mate, Contador, also impresses.  “He is a great asset to cycling.  He is tactically good, he doesn’t wait until the last climb, he throws down the gauntlet.  We need riders like this”.

In view of the upcoming World Championships, Roche was asked which recent World Road Race Champion has impressed him the most.  “Certainly Sagan, but it would have to be Thor Hushovd.  He was 90 kilos, so he had to get points ahead of the other sprinters, going away on mountains for the intermediate sprint points.  He was a great sprinter, an intelligent rider.  A nice guy, with tactical sense”.  As for the upcoming World Championships in Doha, Roche didn’t fancy the course much!  “It’s totally flat.  In a desert”.  So who does he back to win?  “A sprinter.  But I’d like to see Tom Boonen win, he could climb off his bike and say he stopped on a high note, but it will be very difficult for him.  The wind could blow sand across the road.  It’s a sprinters day”.

Roche prefers the 2018 course, when the World Championship comes to Austria.  “It’s a very hard circuit” he explained, and could possibly see the rainbow jersey conferred upon a Tour contender once again.  “People are wishing for it to happen”.  On the subject of jerseys, Ned Boulting asked which was the most prestigious in the cycling world – the World Champion’s rainbows or the maillot jaune?  Peter Sagan, taking both the yellow and green jerseys at this year’s Tour de France  – whilst simultaneously being the World Champion and entitled to wear the associated rainbow jersey – famously quipped “If I lose yellow, I have green.  If I lose green, I have rainbow”.  Roche, debating the merits of each, revealed one of his greatest career regrets.  “I regret not being able to wear my rainbow jersey much due to my knee injury”.  Like Roche, Sagan hasn’t been seen in the stripes too often, although this has been due to the number of points and leader’s jerseys he has accumulated in his World Championship year.  “If I were him, I’d have been frustrated to have to wear the green jersey (at the Tour de France).  You only get one chance to wear rainbow”.

Before it was time for Roche to go, Ned Boulting asked if the audience had anything they’d like to ask the Tour legend – “it’s not every day that you have Stephen Roche answering your questions!”  After answering a number of questions from the floor, Roche was asked “what’s your least favourite mountain?”  Spinning the answer in a more positive light, Roche replied “there wasn’t one I didn’t like – but some didn’t particularly like me!”  Relaying the story of his first ever attempt at Alpe d’Huez on the Tour when he was a new face in the peloton at 23, Roche told the Cycle Show “I forgot to eat.  It was lights out at the foot of the Alpe!”  The mountain may have had other ideas, but the 23-year-old Roche wouldn’t have dreamed of giving up.  He rode on, finishing almost twenty minutes down on the bunch, but crossing the line none the less.  “Alpe d’Huez is an incredible climb…it has to be treated with respect”.

It’s a story which sums up Roche’s entire interview – peppered with humour, humility and honesty, whilst showing the reverence with which he held – and still holds – the sport he loves.  A story of the bike, of the road, and above all, of humanity – le Tour in microcosm.  And with that, Stephen Roche leaves the stage, to greet fans clutching pens and programmes, autograph ready.  Almost thirty years on from his golden 1987, Stephen Roche is still a charismatic champion with the ability to inspire, one of the greats, and a fantastic ambassador for the sport.  Chapeau Mr Roche, and also to the Cycle Show – same time next year?

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If you have a story, photo, comment, or general bike related post, feel free to write to Freewheeling! The email address is freewheelingblog@gmail.com