Fighting racism in British cycling. Tackling sexism at the Tour. Riding from Scotland’s north to England’s south to learn how we, the two nations, see ourselves and each other. Telling the story of a life in bicycles. Supporting the fabulous racing culture of Sierra Leone. Revisiting a childhood in South Africa. And, of course, dropping in at the Bum Clinic.
Conquista 23. Living up to our motto: ‘You don’t get THIS in Cycling Weekly’.
Many visitors to ‘The Big Velo Fete’ at Herne Hill Velodrome were drawn there by the promise of seeing the great Sir Bradley Wiggins in the flesh. But Wiggo wasn’t there to talk about the Olympics, Team Sky or the Tour de France. He attended at the invitation of Dr. Marlon Moncrieffe, an academic and researcher who has created a unique exhibition, presented at the Fete, which showcases a number of underappreciated Black British cyclists – including Russell Williams (above), who Wiggins describes as “my role model. A great man with a great heart.”
In Conquista 23 Dr. Moncrieffe tells the story of his exhibition and the great Black British Champions in Cycling who feature in it.
Speaking of Wiggo, here’s a familiar trick question: who was the first British rider to win the Tour de France? If your answer begins ‘Sir . . ‘ you can expect short shrift from followers of the women’s sport, who will point out – correctly – that Nicole Cooke won the women’s race in 2006 and 2007. But that name isn’t the right answer either.
Something like a women’s Tour de France ran every year from 1984 until 2009. But even followers of the sport might be surprised to know that a single edition of the race was held almost thirty years previously . . . and might be more surprised still to learn that it was won by a Brit (OK, a Manxwoman).
Marcos Pereda peers back through the mists of history to the great Millie Robinson’s victory at – and indeed the full untold story of – The 1955 Tour de France Féminin: An (Almost) Forgotten Experiment.
Readers may remember that the 2019 Omloop het Nieuwsblad women’s race – which was held on the same day and route as the men’s race but started a little later – had to be neutralised when breakaway rider Nicole Hanselmann threated to catch the men’s peloton.
It was tempting to see this as a neat metaphor for the way in which the women’s sport is finally beginning to catch up with the men’s in profile and status. There is now a Women’s WorldTour, a full programme of races during Spring Classics season and a women’s Grand Tour in the form of the Giro Rosa.
But there is one glaring absence from the calendar: where is the women’s Tour de France?
Why has there been no race since 2009? Can it be resurrected? Indeed, should it be resurrected – or should the women go their own way?
Suze Clemitson reviews 2009’s race, digs deep into the murky story of previous editions, meets some remarkable women and draws some controversial conclusions in The Last Tour.
Earlier this year Lauren Campbell set off from her current home in Aberdeenshire to ride to Bristol, where she grew up. She took with her a tent, a camera and bundle of postcards, which she handed to the people she met on her journey, asking them to send her their views on the state of the two nations of England and Scotland. She reveals what was waiting for her on that Bristol doormat in From Either Side of the Fence.
T.S. Eliot famously wrote “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons”. Conquista’s Argentinian correspondent Mitchell Belacone, like the rest of us, has measured out his life in chrome backstays, dynohub-powered lighting systems and unravelling handlebar tape. He tells the colourful story of his life and his bicycles – featuring John F. Kennedy Jr., an early #MeToo moment and a Vietnam vet called Corky Kobbs – in Miles into Milestones.
In these descriptions we tend to mention Tom Owen’s Postcards only briefly, but in doing so we do them, and Tom, a disservice. Each one is a jewel, distilling a place and what it offers to cyclists into just a few hundred words. But there’s never been one quite like issue 23’s Postcard from Sierra Leone – not least because there’s no cycling scene quite like the one in West Africa, and nowhere on earth that even the globe-trotting Mr Owen cares about more passionately. Don’t miss it.
In this issue’s Briefings our friends at The Peloton Brief discover the all-new world of gravel biking. What’s more, they discover it in no less a place than Girona, and begin to think: if this new fad is taking over the mecca of road biking maybe it’s not just a fad after all . . .
James Fouché is just 20 years old, but this powerfully built young Kiwi is already the New Zealand national road race champion and has serious designs on the Spring Classics. Russell Jones sits down with him to discover what his career might yet hold in Stepping Stones.
As a child, every summer Dennis Rink took the day-long 400-mile trip from Johannesburg to the Natal south coast with his family. This year he covered the same route by mountain bike, taking nine days about it (hence the Bum Clinic), as a participant in the annual joBerg2c event. His feature Riding the Beloved Country is not just an account of a bike ride, but also a reflection on life, friendship and his homeland fifty years on.
HotChillee has specialised in organising endurance cycling holidays since 2004. Among the many secrets of their success are their Road Captains, who lead the rides, maintaining the pace, ensuring riders don’t have to worry about maps or road signs and simply being there to help if anyone gets into a spot of bother – among many other things. Conquista Editor Trevor Gornall was invited to join a pre-event recce of the route of Stage One of the 2019 London to Paris route, ending at Stop 24 Services in Folkestone. Read all about it in Road Captain! My Road Captain!