We report live and direct from the break of the Tour of Flanders. We lift the lid on the business brains behind the Tour de France. We probe the mythical depths of cycling’s past. We ponder the place of probability theory in Peter Sagan’s Paris-Roubaix. We look to the uncertain future of cycling in some of the sport’s historic homelands. And we fail to buy a bicycle from a strange man in a field.
Conquista issue 15: it’s just so . . . . Conquista.
For the first time ever, the cover of Conquista – the home of great cycling photography – doesn’t feature a great cycling photograph. Instead, in celebration of the Tour de France, it features great poster art, in the form of Adrian Johnson’s iconic design from 2007’s Grand Départ in London. Pretty, no?
No one has dug more deeply into the history of the Tour de France than Suze Clemitson. But events off the road – scandals, family feuds, crises, business triumphs and disasters – are frequently as riveting as the sporting action. For the full behind-the-scenes story of ASO’s stewardship of cycling’s greatest race, see Suze’s epic Owning the Story, Owning the Show.
And while we’re on the subject . . . with its hundred-years-plus of history and its endless plots and sub-plots, and with its huge range of heroes and villains, who could possibly be bold enough to take on the task of identifying the true Conquistadores of the Tour? Holly Blades, that’s who. See if you agree with her conclusions in Personalities, Punch-Ups and Pee-Throwing.
As a lad Mark McNally of Liverpool dreamed of riding the Tour of Flanders. This year (his second riding for Belgian Pro Conti outfit Team Wanty – Groupe Gobert) he got his chance – and he decided to make the most of it, riding almost all day in the break. Macca’s verdict? “It was just a six-up chainy for 200km.” Right. Conquista editor Trevor Gornall was on hand to tell the full story of Liverpool’s Lionheart: from Crosby to Flanders.
At 27 Macca’s still making his way in the pro peloton. But by the standards of British Cycling’s Academy – where he won junior u-23 and European team pursuit titles – he’s an old stager. Thus it was that Macca was invited to take on the job of senior rider in the Great Britain national team at this year’s Tour de Yorkshire. He gives a unique insider’s account, complete with photos from rising superstar of cycling photography Chris Auld.
In the early part of this year Spain’s Alejandro Valverde carried all before him. He took overall victories at Vuelta a Andalucía Ruta del Sol, the Volta a Catalunya and the Vuelta al País Vasco, then produced a rare double in winning both La Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. The performances of countryman Alberto Contador – second places in Andalucía, Catalunya and the País Vasco behind Valverde, and in Paris-Nice behind Sergio Luis Henao – got less attention, but signal a true great approaching his best form. But once these two titans leave the scene – surely sooner rather than later, as Valverde is 37 and Contador 34 – what then for the sport in Spain? Italy, by contrast, has plenty of up-and-coming riders but somehow lacks a WorldTour team – and there is no sign of that changing any time soon. So, Shane Stokes asks: are these once-great cycling countries heading for a Glorious Sunset?
In issue 10 we hung out with the coolest kids in cycling, thanks to photographer François Lebeau and his Red Hook Crit Portraits. A year-and-a-bit later François is back with portraits of, and interviews with, a whole new generation of racers.
Peter Sagan’s 2017 Classics campaign was a disappointing one. But who, or what, was to blame? Sagan himself? Weak performances by his team? Interfering spectators? Or was it simply . . . the forces of randomness? We ride a Black Swan through the ineffable intersection of cycling and probability theory, with fabulous pictures of 2017’s Paris-Roubaix by master photographer Brian Hodes, in What the Luck?
In recent years Team Novo Nordisk, the world’s first all-diabetes professional cycling team, has made Milan-San Remo a particular target. In 2015 & 2016 Andrea Peron made the break: this year Umberto Poli, the youngest rider in the race, repeated the feat. But just what is it that makes this race so different, so appealing? We go deep into its history, and into the heart of this year’s race, in Milan-San Remo: The Special One.
The tidal wave of subsequent revelations tends to obscure the fact, but the first former teammate of Lance Armstrong to spill the beans on the now-disgraced Texan was Kiwi rider Stephen Swart. In time-honoured fashion he was first vilified but ultimately commended for his honesty. And that wasn’t the end of his troubles – or his triumphs, for that matter. In this fascinating feature by Russell Jones, Stephen explains the true meaning of Loyalty.
At Conquista we don’t just read, write and rave about cycling. We ride, too. And we care very much about what we ride. And we reckon that too many top-end manufacturers take the Ford-esque view that you can have any colour you like, as long as it is the same as the pro team they sponsor; and any size you like, as long as it is one of the three they offer (five if you’re lucky). Of course, you can always go for a custom build: but that means a long wait for a steel frame built by a bloke called Reg in the tidiest shed in the Potteries. Right?
Dublin’s FiftyOne Bikes is one of a tiny handful of frame builders who are taking a different path, combining the most up-to-date science on bike fit and materials – yes, that is a hand-made carbon fibre frame – with a highly personalised and innovative approach to design.Trevor Gornall tells the full and very personal story of his FiftyOne, and how it represents his Salvation through cycling.
And finally . . . Tom Owen takes a break from his journeys to further-flung corners of the planet to bring us a Postcard from Kernow – where he makes a new and mysterious friend, and fails to make a new and mysterious purchase.