– This is Evgeni Berzin, circa 1996. Below is a photo of Berzin, circa 2011. While I was critical of Herbie Sykes’ prolix writing style last week, I must praise him this time. His essay in Rouleur 28 about Berzin’s current station in life is the saddest cycling tale you’ll read this spring. The 1990’s racing legend has become a bitter and bereft Fiat salesman.
– Another fixture of the late 90’s pro scene were the Shimano Dura Ace PD-7401 pedals. They were made for Shimano by Look, but they weren’t just rebadged Look pedals. They offered Dura Ace-caliber lightness combined with Dura Ace-grade spindle and bearing quality. Tightening or loosening release tension with a small allen key was the only adjustment. The PD-7401 was a shining example of mechanical simplicity done right.
They were manufactured only briefly and Lance and Museeuw were two pros with a reputation for hording them long after they were discontinued. When eBay was still a new site, 7401s fetched outrageous prices. This may have been the last product from the bike industry where scarcity drove prices through the roof.
– Girona, Spain is road cycling paradise for a thousand reasons. Best of all are its ancient, looming climbs where you’ll find transcendence unlike to be found in the familiarity of America. And along with spiritual and physical bliss, those mountains also bring bliss of the culinary sort. Vichy Catalan sparkling water is the taste of Girona. It’s found in seemingly every home and restaurant in Catalonia. And much to my delight, it’s now available in America.
It’s a struggle to describe the flavor of Vichy Catalan. Have you ever body surfed in the ocean and gotten tackled by a wave? Your head slams into the solid bottom, you suck in a mouthful of ocean water. Then somehow you pop up above the surface and heave in a breath of air. That salty spit on your tongue? That’s Vichy Catalan. It’s the saltiest frizzante you’ll ever taste. Anyone can rip through a bottle of Pelligrino, Perrier, or Whole Foods sparkling in a night. But no way with Vichy Catalan. Its saltiness means one glass, maybe two, is all you can bear.
– And in Belgium, they drink beer instead.
– Back in winter I made a Spotify playlist for slogging through hours on the trainer. That torture had a purpose, of course, which is race season. It’s here in full tilt. So now I present a new playlist, this one titled the Competitive Cyclist Pin on Your Number mix. Enjoy, and attack, attack, attack!
– A correction (or maybe a clarification) from last week, when I speculated that Tony Flecha was riding next-generation Shimano Dura Ace based on his funky STI lever shape and caliper color. James Huang sent a note confirming some of the comments I got in response to last week’s post. James wrote the following:
‘Flecha was running plain old normal Dura-Ace Di2, calipers and all. The levers only look funny because he has two sets of hoods installed. I scoured every Shimano-equipped bike I could find all week. No sign of new Di2 or 11-speed being tested. Sky’s Alex Dowsett has been spotted with the new mechanical 11-speed but it seems that when he went down a few weeks ago, so did the prototype parts.’
Competitive Cyclist had a presence at Paris-Roubaix, and here is a late-arriving photo that confirms Huang’s account —
– Some of the best Paris-Roubaix coverage comes from the most unexpected places. Check out this blog post from Garmin rider Jacob Rathe. I’ve never heard of Rathe. And while the tales of young cannon fodder generally always fall back on the same themes, they’re still persistently fascinating reading. I’ll be following Rathe closer now, and I’ll certainly be rooting for him.
– This throwback jersey is a lovely neon aperitif.
– And this series of photos (which is part of our larger set of shots we took at Paris Roubaix) is neon ecstasy.
– The final 10km of the Amstel Gold race is arguably the most underappreciated finish in professional bike racing. The cat-and-mouse of the final 10km leads up to a dizzyingly steep crescendo on the Cauberg. Verily, flatlander season is over. And, as Enrico Gasparotto proved on Sunday, nothing tastes as good as dropping everyone on a steep climb feels.
Amstel may be the race of the year so far. The daylong breakaway by Alex Howes of Garmin and Romain Bardet of AG2R was heroic. Despite five hours of time-trialing, they attacked the final few climbs of the day with unbridled aggression. Who wasn’t rooting for Bardet after he dropped Howes and tried to reach the finish alone? On the one hand I was cheering. On the other, I contemplated his bike and wondered what the heck ever happened to Kuota in the US.
Several years back the brand made a big US push. Its only small success came in the triathlon marketplace. That happened despite the fact that it’s best known globally as a road brand and that even to this day its bikes are found all over Europe. We gave the brand a shot during its Tri heyday. But we bailed on it quickly because we had no business dabbling in Tri back in 2006 or whenever that was. In addition, there was a clear lack of consumer demand, and, finally, Kuota’s North American sales manager had only one speed: abrasive. It wasn’t just a personality conflict with Competitive Cyclist. Ask your local ex-Kuota dealer. I guarantee you that they, too, learned a lesson in the importance of brand ambassadorship, or the lack thereof. Yet, Kuota is a persistent presence in the professional peloton. With just two or three great people here in North America, perhaps it could become another brand ripe for resurrection.