We don't use the word "blockbuster" lightly but the next edition of Rouleur, issue 20.7, promises to knock your socks off. The only way to guarantee you'll get it is to subscribe by next Monday, October 12th.
The Wout factor
Words by Olivier Nilsson-Julien. Photos by David Serrano
"Riders often appear small in person. Not Wout, he’s rangy and athletic as we meet him in the restaurant of the Jumbo-Visma training camp hotel at the end of a rest day. We pick up where most fans last saw him in action – that horrendous crash in the 2019 Tour de France time-trial. “I just wanted to get back on the bike,” he says. “But then I saw the wound. They asked if I could move my leg. If I could feel my toes. I realised my Tour was over, the season. Some said my career,” he says.
Wout was rushed to hospital in Pau where he underwent surgery. “After the first operation in France, I thought it’s going to be fine. I hadn’t broken anything. But when Toon [Dr Toon Claes] checked back home in Herentals, he discovered that things weren’t as straightforward as they’d claimed in Pau. They’d missed a torn tendon and Toon had to quickly re-operate to attach it,” Wout adds, grimacing at the thought. “Having to go under the knife a second time was tough. Back to square one, worrying again. I was lucky though – if Toon hadn’t spotted the error in time, it could have been much worse.”"
Fully recovered from his horrific 2019 crash, Wout van Aert is the most exciting bike racer in the world. Domestique, sprinter, climber, time-trials, cyclo-cross, and now stage wins on the biggest stage of all, Le Tour - this young man can do the lot. What next for the Belgian wonderboy?
Words by Kieran Pender. Photos by Rebecca Marshall
"I have never seen Caleb Ewan look rattled. Even as a teenager, he had this poise about him that made many observers (including myself) wonder how he could be so impervious to pressure. Even at races he was expected to win, and didn’t – including a memorable national championships that he had in the bag before cockiness saw him beaten to the line – his reaction was typically one of frustration rather than doubt. Simon Gerrans, a mentor to Ewan, once told me that “he doesn’t lack confidence.” Among elite athletes, there is a fine-line between self-belief and arrogance, and Ewan had always straddled that line to his competitive advantage. But at last year’s Tour de France, cracks were showing in this brave-faced façade. The pressure was on and threatening to overwhelm him.
Lotto-Soudal had made him the team’s lead rider, following André Greipel’s departure. Having clamoured for years to race the Tour, this was Ewan’s moment. He could sink or swim. “I had said publicly that I deserved to go, that I was ready for it,” he says. “If I went and did not win anything, I would have looked pretty silly.”"
It’s been a rather circuitous route to Tour stardom for Caleb Ewan, via the Giro, La Vuelta and finally, a change of team. Now the Australian is firmly established in the top tier of sprinting royalty, and hungry for more success.
Words by Chris Jones. Photos by Schaun Champion
"Racial abuse is thankfully rare these days. Exclusivity isn’t. Being talked down to is less photogenic, but equally as indelible as overt threats. I remember the back-handed compliment after my first ride with the school’s cycling club as a kid. The fact that I was one of the poorest at my mostly-white private high school was laid bare that day, when I rode up and just by instinct, we compared bikes.
My used-looking Power King had all the hallmarks of hard ownership. While it was a great bike, all my pride fell away when I saw my club-mate’s clean, celeste and chrome Bianchi. That was the first time I’d ever seen a Bianchi, cycling shoes, cycling shorts – or toe clips, for that matter. That first ride with them was unspectacular, I just remember this kid’s astonishment – which he was unable to hide – that I finished with the group.
Or, in another moment of long-simmered resentment, I recall the visit to an area bike shop in the mid-2000s, where in off-hand comments, I awakened to the notion that the sales guy presumed that I didn’t belong. Maybe it was a slip of the tongue, a small betrayal of thought.
But being Black has me constantly reading the curl on the ball."
Chris Jones from Baltimore pitched us a first-person piece on the experience of being a black bike rider on the streets of America, and we are so glad he did. It is both an education and an eye-opening account, beautifully written and all too familiar in these times of Black Lives Matter.
Off the beaten track
Words by Hannah Dines. Photos by Lee Brown and Swpix.com
"I’m testing our friendship this evening with my cooking and a post-dinner interview. I unwittingly got myself into this situation by threatening Katie. I wanted her to do more writing – - she is exceptionally talented – - and sent her Rouleur’s call for pitches. I said if she didn’t contact Rouleur, I would pitch them an interview with her. I roped El in, too.
I’m a GB T2 trike rider and I’ve been friends with them for several years, even if we come from different disciplines. The National Cycling Centre in Manchester segregates their Paracycling and able-bodied counterparts. Different staff and training slots mean you could, if you wanted, avoid talking to the Paracycling squad entirely. However, Scottish Cycling HQ offers them little such protection and that’s where I pounced on Katie and demanded we be friends over coffee. And again, over gin and whisky. Another day, it was Italian food. It’s gone on like this for four years.
El made friends with me two years later by embracing me, unsteadily, at the Sports Personality of the Year awards and announcing that we were real life friends as well as social media friends. Then, suddenly, we were in her house doing face masks and it was too late. I realised she had done to me what I had done to Katie. Now they take full advantage of my blue disabled parking badge (only joking!) and me of their high standing in the cycling world."
Another commission that knocked us out came from Paralympic trike racer Hannah Dines, in conversation with Team GB pursuit and madison riders Katie Archibald and Elinor Barker. Fascinating, funny and informative stuff from all three.
Photos by Eugene Kim
Hell of a collection: A Paris-Roubaix obsession
Words by Andy McGrath. Photos by Russ Ellis
Words and photos by Laura Fletcher
Photos by Benedict Campbell
Plus your favourite columnists: Ned Boulting and Orla Chennaoui and, for one issue only, AG2R's Larry Warbasse