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the oregon manifest 2009

oregon manifest

having decided to forego entry into the recent london-paris ride, and instead fly to portland, oregon, the second part of that decision was when to go. as is often the case with many a city across the world, there are a plethora of interesting activities taking place during at least a portion of the year's twelve months, but since i could only manage one week across the pond (things to do, wolves to keep from the door), tossing a coin was about the summation of my decision making. as luck would have it, after making the decision to go in may and booking flights etc in january, a number of the folks i had hoped to meet with had unavoidably gone elsewhere. i don't think it was anything personal.

however, as i mentioned, portland is a city, and cities are jam packed full of people, one of whom is shannon holt, one of the originators of the oregon manifest and directeur sportif of the super-relax cross team. the very fine mr austin ramsalnd, husband of sweetpea bicycles, was kind enough to take me to stumptown coffee to meet with ms holt, and a fine discussion was had over a soya cappuccino at a sidewalk (i picked up some of the language) table.

the first oregon manifest, to the outsider at least, was rather hard to distinguish from the north american handbuilt bicycle show, and did indeed seem to be a bit of a kneejerk reaction to don walker's decision not to keep the show in portland for a second year. however, this year's event has taken on a life all of its own by way of its rather unique constructors' challenge.

for those of you not familiar with the cycling experience that is the city of portland, integration seems to be the name of the game, and while i enjoyed my miles and miles on a chris king cielo, such is only one step down from the bikes of the peloton, heading in the direction of pragmatic transportation on two wheels. this integrated transport system that pervades pdx has all but made the bicycle the veritable equal of the motor car, bus and light railway.

almost.

so in order to foster the ultimate two wheeled transportation device, the manifest has issued the following criteria to the forty odd bicycle constructors expected to take part:

devise a sensational, unique and innovative bike for transportation use.
bikes must handle equally well with and without load. both options will be tested against turning and straight pedaling.
solutions should be integrated into a complete and harmonious whole, rather than a checklist of details.
fabrication refinement and final presentation are important indicators of skill and thoughtfulness. extraordinary craftsmanship can be displayed in the simplest brazing or the fanciest lug. individual design solutions should build to a single visual and functional whole.
bikes must accommodate and securely carry the rider's award ceremony party attire, a provided 6-pack of beverage (in glass bottles), and a provided small container of party snacks.
since the bikes must be protected from theft while unattended, a smart, easy solution for securing the bike under different conditions is expected.
bikes should handle changing weather, lighting conditions, and visibility.
if bike components or parts are loose, rattling, or otherwise inoperable at the race finish, points will be deducted for each failure.
bikes must be able to be carried by their riders over a section of the constructor's race course.

the last of the above may give rise to the occasional quizzical expression: isn't this a constructors' challenge? in which case, why the reference to a race? well, in order to eliminate the all show and no go epithet, the bikes must subsequently undertake a 77 mile (124 km) epic on and off-road challenge inspired by the one-day european classics (think paris-roubaix on a smoother scale), incorporating dirt, gravel, elevation climbs and urban technical trials across the yet to be revealed route; ira ryan will love every centimetre. this trial of strength is sponsored by rapha, who will provide the winning constructor, or perhaps the bike's rider, with the infamous timothy everest bespoke suit.

oregon manifest director, jocelyn sycip (the wife, i believe, of jay sycip, currently new product mastermind at chris king) said, "if the bicycle is ever to realise its potential to change the urban transportation landscape and mindset it'll take a bike that can multi-task the demands of everyday urban transport. the constructor's design challenge is a unique way to jump start the conversation about what constitutes a great, modern, all-around transportation bike."

of course, while this design/construction challenge will rightfully be the centrepiece of the manifest, that's not all there is. with such as the nahbs lasting a mere three days, the manifest, presented by chris king components, fulfils the function of a more substantial exhibition, lasting a total of five weeks from october 2 all the way through to november 8, encompassing an acclaimed danish cycling cultural exhibit, two bike races, guest speakers, and a pop-up storefront bike union (whatever that means). all this is designed to highlight the bicycle's influence on culture, sustainability, climate change and urban design. you can see why it last five weeks.

since i rather hope to return to portland in 2010, it's not hard to figure out the target period for such a visit. couple this with the likelihood of a chris king gourmet ride around the same time, and i may have my first opportunity to celebrate fall rather than autumn.

i can't see any flaw in this cunning plan.

oregon manifest | chris king

twmp

posted on saturday 11 july 2009

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bike racks on buses - the story continues

sportsworks bike rack

on my relatively recent trip to portland, i was particularly impressed with the way that the bicycle had been integrated into the the transport systems employed throughout the city, both downtown and in the suburbs. by fitting bike storage hooks inside the light railway carriages, it's possible to combine both cycling and railway to travel to and from home and workplace, while the placement of bike racks on the front of the tri-met buses, gives the same degree of flexibility to those cyclists outwith the railway network.

possibly in a similar manner to those who visit islay from europe, and return eager to set up an islay website (you wouldn't believe how prevalent this is), i returned to argyll and bute intent on persuading citylink, west coast motors and, on islay, mundell's coaches just how simple it would be to stick these sportworks racks on the front of their larger coaches, in particular those plying the kennacraig-glasgow route.

oh how the naive are full of their own incomprehension.

my first port of call was west coast motors, based in mainland campbeltown (around 36 miles from the islay ferry's mainland terminal) who operate coaches as a subcontract to citylink, taking islay folks to glasgow's buchanan street bus station and several points in between. the chap who replied to my initial e-mail mentioned that he thought the racks may contravene british bus/coach regulations, and that he would endeavour to find out. as is often the case in these situations, that was the last i heard, despite at least a couple of follow up e-mails.

contact with citylink was even less successful: as of this moment, i have received no communication whatsoever from the coach operator, and i've been home for almost two months. however, it did seem that i might be banging my bloated head against a brick wall if, after a concerted attempt at persuasion, it turned out that there was indeed a regulation, or series of, that prevented the fitting of the racks under question, so it seemed prudent at that point to contact someone considerably more informed than i. this person was dave holladay, the cyclists' touring club (ctc) transport management solutions chap.

now i like to think of myself as well informed and able to reel off chapter and verse when questions are levelled at me, but crikey this guy would be the very man to have on your pub quiz team if transport happened to be on the agenda. dave presented me with an incredibly accurate potted history of the bike rack on buses throughout the united states, having even imported a sportsworks rack in 1996 for a projected supportred by the detr cycle challenge fund.

however, the long and short of it is that these racks do indeed contravene the european car cyclists' touring club crash safety (for pedestrians) standard which, as dave pointed out, is highly relevant to the uk, but substantially less so in the united states due to considerably fewer pedestrians. so while the sportsworks website cheerfully shows a short video demonstrating an emergency stop in the wet by a bus bearing a fully occupied rack on the front, without so much as a shimmer from any bicycle, what neither i nor sportsworks took into consideration is the fact that bicycles sitting on such a rack have protruding pedals and handlebars. a 30mph head/handlebar interface is not something any of us would like to contemplate, and apparently sportsworks has not been interested in reworking their design to provide a shield or otherwise take care of this rather stark problem.



yet their website bears an invitation to any european bus company interested in trialling the system.

so my heartfelt thanks go to dave holladay of the ctc for providing me with enough information to prevent me making even more of a fool of myself, as i drafted e-mails to the relevant members of parliament, demanding that the uk bus regulations be amended.

it's not easy being the people's hero.

and dave's comprehensive reply is one of the best adverts i have ever seen for the work done on behalf of the nation's cyclists by the ctc. in comparison to the whizz bang purveyed by british cycling, the former may seem a mite drab, conjuring pictures of dark green claud butlers festooned with panniers, being ridden by neon yellow garbed cyclists in the pouring rain.

but you could do a lot worse than join.

cyclists' touring club

twmp

posted on friday 10 july 2009

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the giant of provence

ventoux t-shirt

this year's tour de france will attempt to put cats amongst pigeons by sending all those left in the peloton up to the top of mont ventoux on the penultimate day. not the ideal thing to look forward to after cycling round most of france for almost three weeks; at least not if you're at the back.

for british cycle fans of a certain age, ventoux is etched in the brain cells as being the backdrop for the final pedal strokes of tom simpson, and there isn't a year goes by when this stage is included, without comment or pictures of the simpson memorial on the climb's upper slopes. the mountain is also more recently famous for being the ascent where lance armstrong gifted the stage to a returning marco pantani. as a result, armstrong has never won on the ventoux.

as a mountain top finish it equals the excitement of alpe d'huez, to the point where a tour without at least one of the two would seem almost anathema to the arena of grand tour cycling. but this year, it gains an extra level of interest: all are keen to see if armstrong can fill that gap in his palmares by taking the finish line in first place, and it will be interesting to see if the gc standings can really be altered by much on the second last day. but the stage from montelimar to mont ventoux is also the route favoured by this year's etape du tour on monday 20th july, when thousands will attempt to ride in the toe straps of simpson and brave the heat and desolation of the mountain's upper slopes.

ventoux t-shirt

the fascination of this stage has seemingly captured the imagination not only of those taking part, but also of those poised to provide souvenirs of the occasion. the new prendas cap, at least in its initial offering, pays tribute to the mountain on the back of the cap, while urban hunter has now slipped down to the shoulders in the form of an extremely fine and desirable t-shirt, bearing a very impressive design on the front paying tribute to tommy simpson.

hand-printed using water-based, eco-friendly inks in silver on a navy t-shirt, the design features yellow highlights that allude to the tour leader's jersey. cost to you and me is a satisfying £22.95

urbanhunter

twmp

posted on thursday 9 july 2009

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attention deficit

contador's trek

despite the fact that the pegoretti luigini ridden by jez hastings from london to paris being of particularly restrained hue, dario is well renowned for his, shall we say, artistic embellishments on at least one or two of his frames. i have seen such artistry at first hand while getting in the way at mosquito bikes in london, and if you're into that sort of thing (which i admit i'm not really), then you not only have a particularly fine bicycle, but effectively, a work of art.

this is not the first instance of the bicycle frame being used as an art object as opposed to being the subject; while i have no quarrel with this being the case, i rather favour the the more normal reason for painting a bicycle frame - to protect it from the elements, while providing a basic lick of colour. however, if you take a peek at the photographs accompanying this article, you may already be feeling particularly unwell. the orange and black monstrosity belongs to mr armstrong, while the black and white effigy is mr contador's time trial machine, helpfully labelled by trek as speed concept, something i had rather thought was what we linguists would refer to as a tautology.

trying hard not to look at these monstrosities for too long, shifts any suspicion of drugtaking from the two riders, to some unfortunate housed in trek's wisconsin paint shop. i truly believe it is not possible, or even desirable, to decorate anything, let alone a bicycle in this fashion, without resort to hallucogenic substances. while the riders may have had no say in the designs applied to their supplied machines, surely there has to be a clause in their respective contracts that allows them to say no.

lance's trek

since both men are currently not only battling for the upper places in the tour de france, but also for leadership of the same team, does it not seem a cruel fate that they should be relegated to being somewhat of a laughing stock in the pre-tour magazines and essential guides? when you consider that the uci seem all too eager to step into the fray when frame design and tri-bar technology are on the discussion board in the hallway, surely there has to be an office in switzerland, staffed with qualified design people who could draw up stringent regulations outlawing anything sailing this close to the wind?

i have had a brief look through trek's website detailing the 2010 road bicycle range, and fortunately there is no evidence that this sort of excessiveness is likely to make it through to consumerism. and while this is worthy of a sigh of relief, one then has to wonder what was the point of obscuring the carbon in this manner in the first place.

still, at least you can't buy a trek by mail order

twmp

posted on wednesday 8 july 2009

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etxe ondo hilare bib shorts

etxe ondo shorts

i figure there are two types of sporting cyclists: those who embrace the lycra, polyester, track mitts et al, at the earliest possible opportunity and, not to put too fine a point on in it, those who don't. perhaps strange to relate, i was one of the latter, yet now happy to poke fun at those who are reticent to take the well trodden path. it was a long time before i owned a pair of lycra shorts, and even then, i'd either wear them under a pair of plain, black tights, or with leg warmers, unable as i was to show off the skinny pins. as my father was wont to state 'like a pair of woodbines hanging out a packet'.

of course, much of this had to do with my solo career: islay doesn't have too many pelotons from which to choose, and in the early years, i was that peloton. so early pairs of shorts were just that; pairs of shorts, those with a waistband and a distinct lack of bibs, as those of us in the know now refer to them. you see, bibshorts are somewhat of an unknown quantity in the sizing department, and a quick perusal of the swiss sizing chart pointed to the requirement of a pair of large. except i am in that no-man's land between a 28" waist and a 30", and the prospect of wearing the cycling equivalent of clown's trousers was not one i truly wished to entertain, particularly in a rather conservative rural society.

and living in such isolation meant that it was hardly possible to pop into my local friendly cycle dealer for advice and a bespoke fitting. of course now it brings a smile to the visage: even large sized bibshorts have not the wherewithal to turn me into more of an object of humour than i already am, and in the interim period, i have discovered that wearing a size small in bibshorts will not turn me into the hunchback of notre dame due to a severe shortage in the shoulder straps department.

proper shorts are a total necessity for any serious and less than serious cyclist; lord carlos eschews the modern chamois in his fervour to remain merely a bloke with a bike, rather than a dyed-in-the-wool cyclist, but it's a battle he's likely to lose, since comfort in the undercarriage department is something we all ultimately desire. and having been sent a pair of etxe ondo hilare bibshorts, comfort in that particular area is almost assured. ultimately, that's the principal overriding factor we are all searching for in a pair of shorts, and if it costs just that wee bit extra, then it's possibly the one garment where such can be justified.

the bicycle currently ensconced in thewashingmachinebikeshed for review, bears a very attractive and decorous saddle which, sadly, does not provide the same degree of comfort as it does bling. therefore something needs to take up the slack, or my bum will not be speaking to me in its usual dulcet tones. the urraki insert provided by the etxe ondo hilares has all the saddle defence i need, and for more than just a brief distance.

etxe ondo shorts

of course, none of us are immune to the desire for a bit of style engineered around the pad, and these have subtle amounts by the truckload. i realise that the latter sounds to be somewhat of a contradiction in terms, but the rainbow coloured stitching joining the various panels positively shimmers, attracting positive comment from my lead-out train, while the silver embroidered etxe ondo logo across the back panel, merely taunted those following vainly in my wake.

it's not all just bells and whistles however: the bib section is constructed from a finely woven mesh that exerts only vague pressure on those less than muscular shoulders, while in a break with modern tradition, the leg grippers are made from ribbed elastic, eschewing any association with the silicon gloop more favoured by their contemporaries. perhaps the only feature that should be treated with circumspection is the presence of powerlycra, ostensibly an upgrade from the more mundane variant, but given to providing additional support to those hard-working leg muscles. i will concur that these are particularly comfortable to wear, especially for extended distances, but so far power is not an epithet i would have felt it necessary to use. powerlycra is, i feel at pains to point out, not something engendered by the host manufacturer, so we can hardly blame etxe ondo for that.

if, like me, you feel trepidation in your approach to a pair of bibshorts, particularly with regard to sizing, mick and andy at prendas, retailers of said product, are more than happy to assist: send them details of height, weight, chest and waist, and they will endeavour to advise of the very pair for you.

and it's nice to see etxe ondo back in the uk market again, even if i can't pronounce it properly.

etxe ondo hilare shorts with urraki insert are available from prendas ciclismo in small (as tested) through to 3xl at a retail cost of £99.95.

prendas.co.uk

twmp

posted on tuesday 7 july 2009

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le col cycle jersey

le col jersey

i'm sure that you, like me, are perfectly familiar with the ideal of the so-called group-test, where publications of no particular hue or cry will grab a quantity of bicycles, chainsets, shorts, jerseys, whatever and subsequently compare them with each other, the intention being to produce a winner that the manufacturer of which can add such kudos to one of the ever increasing number of swing tags tacked onto the most infuriating part of the apparel. in preparation for this article, i did a modest amount of research to familairise myself with the criteria most often used in connection with group tests of this type, concerning myself principally with those relating to cycling apparel, since it is readily applicable to the item in question.

it seems not too disquieting that we, as individuals, apply as many different criteria to our choice of jersey, shorts, jackets etc., as there are manufacturers on the planet, but i'm willing to start the ball rolling by telling you mine (as if you're interested). for the sake of a dod of continuity, i shall place the humble cycle jersey at the heart of this discussion because, well just because: it needs to fit; it needs to fulfil the function for which it was designed, it preferably shouldn't upset my bank manager, but if it manages numbers one and two, that becomes of secondary importance (having spent several thousand on a bicycle, it seems churlish to skimp on the uniform). but almost as important as all the foregoing, it needs to be stylish; i know this is a subjective decision, but i figure there is only so much room to manouevre with this unless you ride for liquigas or astana.

this latter checkbox, i'm sad to stay, is probably the one that is very conspicuous by its absence when it comes to consolidating the constraints applied by these mythical (nudge, nudge, wink,wink) magazines of our acquaintance. which pretty much explains why the so-called editor's choice may well be the best value for money, yet is the sort of thing that you wouldn't likely be seen dead in, or maybe just on the cover of the comic.

le col jersey

semantics is described as the application of mathematics to language, but i cannot find any mathematical relation between the cost of a cycle jersey and the degree of style it imparts to the wearer. jerseys are oft times constructed from several inexplicable panels of hi-tech material, but i have yet to find the uci regulation that stipulates that each of these panels has to be of a different hue and lathered with undefined alpha numerics. it may be that a bright yellow and grey panelled top, a little baggy around the chest with pockets nigh on half way up the back is indeed spotted as the best value for money, but is that good enough reason to wear it?

so what has this all to do with a le col short sleeve jersey costing £100? quite a lot actually.

this jersey just plain fits, and fits exceedingly well in all the right departments, but considering where the inspiration came from, that is hardly surprising. the chief executive officer of le col cyclewear took third place in the blackpool edition of the premier calendar at the weekend.

having taken at least a year out of the manic world that is uk cycle racing, yanto barker resumed his racing career this year aboard a colnago eps, a bicycle we are both happy to be equally obsessive about - except he has one, and i don't. the reason for returning to the road was principally to publicise his new clothing line, the aforementioned le col, of which this jersey is the first manifestation. you may be feeling slightly concerned about the large white colnago logos that feature front, back and shoulders, particularly if you don't happen to ride one, but yanto sent this one, because i do. the jersey is also available with no bicycle preference at all. and black will not be the only colour.

the most arresting feature about the le col jersey, aside from that superb gold logo front and back, is the stitching between panels; two of my cycling companions remarked as much during sunday pedalling time. the fabric is regular jersey material, pretty much dictated by the need to print logos etc., while the build, as in the case of the eps, is carried out in italy. i know that professional cycle racers have little or no need for a fourth, zipped pocket at the rear, but i have need, and it's probably the only omission on which i feel it necessary to comment. a full length zip is always a welcome part of a summer weight jersey, with silicon gloop all the way round the hem to hold the jersey in place while on the bike. the rear pockets have been cleverly designed to minimise sprinter's droop; whatever you stuff in those pockets, the jersey won't drag on the rear tyre.

le col logo

testing time was on a hot sunny day, though with the customary near gale-force wind, yet all was comfort and joy. and despite having a reputation as a designer scruff, the le col colnago jersey conferred that very degree of style that seems to be ignored in those perennial group tests with which i started the evening, many sentences above.

le col clothing will be more than just a jersey: there will be a long-sleeve for the nine months of the year when it isn't summer on islay (£129.99), shorts, tights, gilet, undervest as the weeks roll by, along with a more leisure oriented style including a 50 percent wool jersey with the le col logo embroidered on the breast (form an orderly queue). yanto is as obsessed with getting everything as right as it is possible to be, and on the evidence of this first item, he is doing as well off the bike as on.

le col clothing will be available in september of this year, both through retail outlets and from the le col website. at the moment i am very happy to be the only other cyclist to be this well dressed on a colnago.

le col

twmp

posted on monday 6 july 2009

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a life with passion - dromarti bicycle frame

dromarti dropout

for a number of years (thirteen, to be presact), i was a drummer in islay pipe band; leading drummer if you will, though only because in the beginning i was the only bloke on the island who admitted to being able to read drum notation. sadly, as a part of a pipe band, it isn't up to the drummers to set the tempo (unlike my playing as a kit drummer) but the responsibility of the pipe major. however, in my experience, pipers have as much sense of time as a charter airline: on piping only tunes, it was immensely humorous to watch the feet of the pipers who, though they were supposed to be taking their time from the pipe major, were all tapping the floor at different tempos.

happily, as a drummer, my timing is pretty ok, and this is a sense of timing that seemingly stretches over to my washingmachinepost explorations. on friday morning, i arrived at the east putney office of martin scofield, a man you will likely be more familiar with, under the guise of dromarti, purveyor of those 'to die for' leather cycle shoes admired from islay all the way to portland. my arrival coincided nicely with the slightly earlier arrival of the first of dromarti's latest ventures - a luscious steel frame.

dromarti logo

however, in much the same way as the old modernity of the shoes, this steel frame not only nudges at the heritage of cycle racing, but manages to encompass a contemporary impression at the same time. there are many, many steel bicycles being presented to the cycling public nowadays, a good few of which are beauty and function encapsulated, but the italian made dromarti frame is enough to provoke a sharp intake of breath. with more than just a nod at my favoured expression art lies in the detail the craftsmanship extends to having the dromarti name stamped into both rear road and front fork dropouts, hard chromed right-hand chainstay, chromed fork crown with inset logo, a threaded one inch steerer and brazed on front gear mech mount. the lugs are also chromed, the road dropouts bear a threaded insert for screw-in wheel stops, and the down tube has the necessary brazed mounts for gear levers, should the prospective owner wish to take the retro route instead of ergopower/sti.

dromarti frame

however, these are the secondary points that can be observed while wiping drool from the chin: the factor that brought on the sharp intake of breath was the fabulous paint scheme; solid, glossy cream with logos and detailing in fine burgundy, being thoroughly modern and retro both at the same time. the lettering is slightly raised off the cream tubing and bears the dromarti statement and strapline 'a life with passion' both on the seat tube and top tube, while pointing to its place of birth on the left chainstay - made in italy.

this is the very first of the road frames to arrive: there is also a track frame which i have not yet witnessed, and if i'm a really good boy, martin has promised the opportunity to test one of these bikes when the build (by my technical advisor, mr graeme freestone king) is completed. i have no true notion of what one of these frames will cost, but it should be reassuringly expensive and a fabulous accomplice for a pair of those leather shoes.

form an orderly queue in east putney now.

dromarti.com

twmp

posted on sunday 5 july 2009

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rapha cakes

rapha cakes

perren street has publicly been rather quiet about this so far, though there was rather fine party on friday evening in the alley outside imperial works (it was a lovely warm evening) decorated overhead by the flapping equivalent of the rouleur favourite jerseys exhibition. the food was fine, the company was excellent and a can of orange san pellegrino (sorry mr sachs) was just what the city of london prescribed (sort of).

five years ago, rapha released its first product (the classic jersey, if memory serves well) and consisted of three staff (claire, their first employee, was at the party, as wonderful as ever); they now employ a total of sixteen staff over two continents - slate olson and family were also in attendance - they have the number one cycle racing team in the uk, having just won the british road racing championship (kristian house and john herety were also at the party), the finest cycling publication in the land (world?) in rouleur, the staff of which are ever ready to tell you just how to build your colnago (thank you gents:-), have a customer base as loyal and fanatical as that of apple computer, and after five years, they are making a profit.

upstairs in the perren street office space was a well laid out exhibition tracing rapha's roots from the beginning, a wide screen telly showed the rapha continental rides the tour of california on a looping dvd, and the almost mythical wall of pain and suffering featured large. at the risk of being overtly prejudiced, i think they deserve every ounce of success they've had. love them or hate them, rapha have changed the face of cycling by a far greater degree than most of us realise, possibly even more than they realise.

happy birthday rapha

twmp

posted on saturday 4 july 2009

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so who the heck is justin spinelli and why is he svelte?

justin spinelli

rewind about a week or so, and i would have been jumping in there with you to ask the same question, but it's a very happy fact of being thewashingmachinepost that once you're connected, you're connected; my bestest pal in the whole of connecticut, richard sachs, e-mailed me to introduce me to a rider i (and probably you) have never heard of before, despite the fact that he was a member of the domo farm-frites team and the long departed saeco cannondale team with mario cipollini. a very tidy hidden palmares if you ask me.

but he no longer races in such exalted company, content now to partake of domestic racing in the usa and having recently created his own company svelte cycles; but it's not quite what you'd think it is - it's much cleverer than that.

read the interview

twmp

posted on saturday 4 july 2009

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