Guest Article: Putting the V in Rivat

Guest Article: Putting the V in Rivat

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I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop in the Lance affair. That is a long wait. And I’m burned out on the whole doping subject so it’s great @wiscot writes up a profile of Charlie Mottet. Here is a man whose sock height I can believe in.

VLVV, Gianni

It was, in the first instance, the shoes. Just as cycling kicks were emerging, literally, from the dark ages in the late 80s, French rider Charly Mottet wore perhaps the finest shoes of his generation: red and white Rivats. Not too garish, not too bulky, not too cheesy-looking, they were just right and, to a great extent, complemented the rider who wore them: a professional who did things properly. They got my attention and he became a favorite rider for me. As we now know, Mottet did indeed do things “just right.”

In his recent memoir “We Were Young and Carefree” Laurent Fignon writes bluntly and tellingly that in the early 90s there was a subtle, but seismic shift happening in pro cycling. Riders, previously considered domestiques, were riding beyond their expected abilities. Champions with exemplary palmares, like Fignon, found themselves struggling against riders who were previously fit only to fetch bidons. While it must be said that doping has always been present in cycling, it was relatively unsophisticated and tended not to turn “carthorses into thoroughbreds.” The 1990s however, saw much more sophisticated and powerful drugs becoming the norm and while EPO might not have been openly discussed or detectable, clearly something was amiss. Fignon writes of his disgust and despondency at being humiliated in the sport he loved – hence his decision to retire rather than follow the same unsavory path to dishonesty.

One rider whose own palmares were outstanding and had a reputation for attaining them honestly was Fignon’s one-time teammate Charly Mottet, The diminutive rider from Valence in the Drome region began his career with Renault in 1983, a top echelon team that included Fignon, Marc Madiot and Bernard Hinault. Under the guidance of brilliant directeur-sportif Cyrille Guimard, Mottet, like so many others, flourished in his profession. He then rode for Systeme U (again under Guimard) and RMO before retiring after two seasons with Novomail. In retrospect, his 1994 retirement (one year after Fignon) was timely and dignified. In the mid-90s and beyond, doping was becoming de rigeur and riders like Mottet would have encountered the same dilemma most riders would face: dope or be dropped. David Millar (to name but one) succumbed; Mottet did not.
Even a cursory glance through Mottet’s palmares show a rider of versatility and strength: 45 victories in the amateur ranks and 75 wins as a professional. In his second pro season he was best young rider in the Giro and winner of the Tour de l’Avenir. He won stages in all three Grand Tours, the Tour of Romandie overall and the Dauphine Libere three times. In one day classics he won the Tour of Lombardy and Zuri-Metzgete. Digging deeper, we see a rider of amazing all-around abilities: he could time trial, winning the Grand Prix des Nations three times; he could climb, winning Romandie, the Tour de Haut Var and the Dauphine; and he rode track, winning the six days of Grenoble (twice), and Paris. He won 6 top-level criteriums. In his grand tours he finished 2nd in the 1990 Giro and was three times in the top 10 in the Tour.

But what really sets Mottet apart from many of his fellow pros as the age of rampant drug-taking dawned was that he was known to be a clean rider. No ifs and buts or suspicions, he was clean. Disgraced soigneur Willy Voet, who would be at the center of the doping maelstrom with Festina, worked with Mottet and remembers him well: “A year later the French rider Charly Mottet, who twice finished fourth in the Tour de France, joined the team. The arrival of Charly Mottet helped to clean up the team. He was the team leader, he had more influence than anyone on the way his teammates thought and he never wanted to know about drugs. When he arrived at RMO, we knew hardly anything about him. We knew he had the ability to win the Tour de France, but we didn’t know what means we had to put at his disposal to help him get there. It was only as the races went by and we ate with him and spent time with him that we worked out what kind of a fellow we were dealing with. This was one clean cyclist. An iron supplement or an injection of an anti-oxidant (Iposotal) and that was as far as he went.”

“You could honestly say that Mottet was a victim of drug-taking right through his career – of other riders’ drug-taking. If he had used some stuff to help him recover, perhaps only now and then, the list of races which he won – already a long one – would have been considerably longer. Who knows if he might not have won the Tour? As it was, he was a rider who was said to fall apart in the final week.”

Maybe Mottet also became disillusioned as lesser talents usurped him? After all he retired at the age of 32 when he could have been expected to ride for a few more years. Nevertheless he has a record to be proud of and something that no amount of money or rationalizing can give: a clean conscience. The pressure to stay active and dope must have been immense: by the early 90s, the French had enjoyed many years of Tour triumphs. Beginning with Jacques Anquetil (61, 62, 63, 64) followed by Lucien Aimar (66), Roger Pingeon (67), Bernard Thevenet (75 & 77), Bernard Hinault (78, 79, 81, 82 & 85) and Laurent Fignon (83 & 84), the French had 15 wins in 25 years – a remarkable run of success. With Hinault retiring in 86 and Fignon struggling in the LeMond years, the expectation and hope for a new great French hope was palpable. Why would such dominance not continue? Mottet looked a possible successor to the fame and fortune that a Tour win would bring. Alas, the dark and pernicious encroachment of doping meant that Mottet began to struggle against other riders who were theoretically not in his league. It’s hard to believe that the diminutive Frenchman would not be aware of talk and rumors as well as unexpected results. To maintain a drug-free stance in the face of on-and-off the bike pressure shows a remarkable strength of character. Recent books by David Millar and Tyler Hamilton as well as the recent USADA report bear stark witness to the Hobson’s choice riders faced: dope or be dropped. Tellingly, the only Frenchman to podium since 1990 has been Richard Virenque and, through Voet and other sources, we all know about his stance on performance-enhancing drugs.

Here at Velominati we look backwards to bygone days to seek warmer memories than seem plausible today. Riders come and go but some remain in the memory as examples to be honored and Charly Mottet is one such rider. Look at the picture above for reasons why Charly was the consummate professional:

  • The full effort being expended: the essence of V.
  • The superb position with the flat back.
  • The radical (by standards of the day) Gitane TT bike with full Campagnolo Delta gruppo.
  • The immaculate and stylish Systeme U skinsuit with matching custom saddle.
  • The aero helmet paired with cool Rudy Project sunglasses.
  • The red aero Coke bidon.
  • The perfect socks.
  • The magnificently color-coordinated outfit; look how the red shoes sync with the U logos, the bidon and the decals on the rear disc wheel. A more put together rider you will struggle to find anywhere.
  • And last but not least, the red and white Rivat shoes.

What’s not to like and admire? Nothing. Hopefully our sport is going through a catharsis where the misdeeds of the past will be banished to awkwardly-written record books. Sure, some riders will always look for an edge, but I believe the new generation are riding cleaner than they have in decades. On this site we can, and do, express our opinions readily and with conviction. However, none of us were pro riders in the 90s and 2000s and can’t really say what we would have done if put in the same position most riders found themselves in. They say that to truly understand someone, you have to imagine standing in their shoes; in more ways than one, I’d like to think that we, as Velominati, could stand in Charly’s Rivats.

// Guest Article // Look Pro

  1. Great article and great photo!  Sadly Mottet retired well before I ever got into cycling, but if I’d followed the sport back then I’m fairly certain he would have been my favourite rider if for no other reason the way he looked on the bike – the PROest of the PRO.

  2. @VeloVita

    Great article and great photo! Sadly Mottet retired well before I ever got into cycling, but if I’d followed the sport back then I’m fairly certain he would have been my favourite rider if for no other reason the way he looked on the bike – the PROest of the PRO.

    I attended the 1989 Paris-Nice Prologue with a back stage press pass as a 17 year old and I cannot remember if he was there or not!  Killing me.  I know that Roche and Delgado and Fignon were there.  Somewhere at my house I have some old, small, grainy pics that I took of them warming up on a little crappy camera.  Only pro race I have ever seen live.

  3. @Buck Rogers I did a quick Google search and couldn’t find anything indicating whether he was there or not – If he was, he didn’t finish in the Top 15 of any stage nor the Top 25 in GC.

  4. Beautiful and timely write-up, @wiscot  – thanks for that one!

    @all: Have a great weekend

  5. Nothing but pure speed...

    The picture speaks for itself and Charly Mottet, too ! ;)

  6. I love the way he has rear facing 32mm rockets instead of bar ends…..just in case he picks up any wheelsuckers that don’t greet him in the correct fashion!

  7. Great article wiscot! I knew a bit about him, but now I know more! Thanks!!

  8. Marvellous article, thank you. Mottet is rider I was aware of but had paid less attention to than the more well known riders of that time in learning a little of the cycling’s history. I am now much better informed and I must dig out my TdF video cassettes from 89 onwards to get to see him in action, if I can locate that working VCR in a cupboard somewhere. Winter turbo training has taken on a new appeal!

  9. @Buck Rogers

    @VeloVita

    Great article and great photo! Sadly Mottet retired well before I ever got into cycling, but if I’d followed the sport back then I’m fairly certain he would have been my favourite rider if for no other reason the way he looked on the bike – the PROest of the PRO.

    I attended the 1989 Paris-Nice Prologue with a back stage press pass as a 17 year old and I cannot remember if he was there or not! Killing me. I know that Roche and Delgado and Fignon were there. Somewhere at my house I have some old, small, grainy pics that I took of them warming up on a little crappy camera. Only pro race I have ever seen live.

    Mottet rode Tirreno-Adriatico in 1989 and won a stage.  Then as now TA partially overlapped with P-N so he wouldn’t have been there.

    http://www.cyclingfever.com/sporter.html?_ap=palmares&sporter_idd=MTY5MzE=

  10. @Nate Nice work tracking that done.  Great logic.  Did not remember seeing him at Paris-Nice but that was a looonnnggg time ago!

  11. Killer article man. I love his shoes. Rivat, I have no memory of anyone else wearing these. Red shoes were pretty radical back then. Why didn’t I want them back in the day?  More questions than answers, as usual.

  12. Tremendously good article. Thank you for writing it.

  13. Great article on a great rider! Petit Charly was a huge inspiration to me as a height-challenged pedalwan.

  14. Wonderful read.  Truly inspiring.  I’ve often felt unsure of what to say when asked by non-cyclists whether there were any clean riders.  Now, my answer will be a simple, short: Charly Mottet.  Thanks for the article.

  15. Hadn’t known of him before. Thanks for the introduction!

  16. Great article, Wiscot! Chapeau, good sir.

    One minor thing; it wasn’t a Delta gruppo per se, it was a C-Record with Delta brakes.

  17. Superb; thoughtfully written. Thanks for sharing.

  18. @Gianni

    Killer article man. I love his shoes. Rivat, I have no memory of anyone else wearing these. Red shoes were pretty radical back then. Why didn’t I want them back in the day? More questions than answers, as usual.

    Just to whet your appetite.  There are a NOS pair on ebay in the States! http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Rivat-NOS-road-cycling-shoes-46-size-12us-Mint-In-orig-box-/330820630151?pt=US_Men_s_Athletic_Footwear&hash=item4d06723687&_uhb=1

    It looks like RIVAT are still going in France although they only seem to make boxing shoes now.  But  I have always had a bit of a yearning for a pair of laced cycling shoes….this pair of RIVATs looks particularly stunning…

  19. @Deakus Er, those aren’t Rivats, they’re Vittorias.

  20. Excellent piece Wiscot. Aero Coke bidon as you say…..class act.

  21. @Oli

    Great article, Wiscot! Chapeau, good sir.

    One minor thing; it wasn’t a Delta Gruppo per se, it was a C-Record with Delta brakes.

    Sorry! After Gran Sport, Record and Super Record I kinda lost track!

    To all, thanks for the compliments. I enjoyed writing it as much as many of you enjoyed reading it.

  22. Some NOS pairs of the red Rivats from a seller in France. My size, seriously tempted…

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/NOS-chaussures-en-cuir-Rivat-taille-41-mod-578-Equipe-Mottet-606-/200778258021?pt=FR_JG_Sports_Cyclisme_&hash=item2ebf511665

  23. @pistard

    Some NOS pairs of the red Rivats from a seller in France. My size, seriously tempted… http://www.ebay.com/itm/NOS-chaussures-en-cuir-Rivat-taille-41-mod-578-Equipe-Mottet-606-/200778258021?pt=FR_JG_Sports_Cyclisme_&hash=item2ebf511665

    They do look lovely!

  24. Chuck Flop, possibly my favorite rider of the 80’s and early 90’s. Embodied everything about cool that could be embodied in a person. Hi kit, his look…

    Need an aero advantage? Put a box of kleenex on your saddle.

  25. Slightly less cool.

  26. His bike in 1990 was the coolest and best set up ever. Of course there were issues with this Mavic group set, but it was so incredibly beautiful.

    The crankset, the levers, and the yellow pedals. The headset (one of which I have in a tin in the basement). Just incredible. And if you’ve neer seen those hubs up-front, do your best to get the chance. Art.

  27. @frank

    His bike in 1990 was the coolest and best set up ever. Of course there were issues with this Mavic group set, but it was so incredibly beautiful.

    The crankset, the levers, and the yellow pedals. The headset (one of which I have in a tin in the basement). Just incredible. And if you’ve neer seen those hubs up-front, do your best to get the chance. Art.

    the yellow flash on the tip of the saddle ties the whole bike together.

  28. Mottet was given some much deserved love coming into the now legendary ’89 tour – he was listed as one of the pre-race favorites. That was the first I’d heard of him, and though he was overshadowed by the amazing drama, he still made a lasting impression on me. After reading your article, I feel even more inclined to highlight his name when speaking of legends who’s names were lost at the onset of professional cyclings dark ages.

    Great article!

  29. nice article, however not a complete delta groupo, see front brake!

  30. @Oli

     
    So what’s the word on present day Vittorias? I am thinking of carrying them in the new studio when it opens and I have to do my pre-season order soon – comments?
  31. No real experience there, sorry Dan. They look damn nice, I know that!

  32. @Dan_R

    @Oli

     
    So what’s the word on present day Vittorias? I am thinking of carrying them in the new studio when it opens and I have to do my pre-season order soon – comments?

    Worth asking them for a sample?…you probably get the thumb from them but you never know and asking costs you nothing……they are beautiful though…

  33. Great article, really enjoyed reading about a rider I hadn’t known much about. His career ran parallel to Stephen Roche who seemed clean until his last year with Carrera. Seems like Roche should have bowed out with his reputation intact like Mottet

    It was reported in the Rome newspaper, La Repubblica, in January 2000 that Francesco Conconi, a professor at the University of Ferrara involved with administering erythropoietin (EPO) to riders on the Carrera team with which Roche had some of his best years, had provided riders including Roche with EPO. Roche denied the allegations.[9] This was further reported in the Irish Times several days later, Roche again denying EPO.[10] In March 2000 the Italian judge Franca Oliva published a report detailing the investigation into sports doctors including Conconi.[11] This official judicial investigation unequivocally found that Roche was administered EPO in 1993, his last year in the peloton.[8] Files part of the investigation allegedly detail a number of aliases for Roche including Rocchi, Rossi, Rocca, Roncati, Righi and Rossini.[12] In 2004 Judge Oliva unambiguously found that Roche had taken EPO during 1993 but due to the statute of limitations, neither Roche nor his team-mates at Carrera would be prosecuted.[13]

  34. @Dan_R   Congratulation on the new biz. Love the logo too. You want to start a good argument? Ask us about tyres. Everyone has bad stories about a cut side-wall the first time out so such and such are crap. Nonsense of course.

    Bretto loves Vittoria. The Pavé Boyz use Vittoria tubs for their pavé Cyfac bikes. I don’t have enough experience with them to give a decent opinion.

    Can’t wait to start seeing some of your wheels.

  35. @frank

    His bike in 1990 was the coolest and best set up ever. Of course there were issues with this Mavic group set, but it was so incredibly beautiful.

    The crankset, the levers, and the yellow pedals. The headset (one of which I have in a tin in the basement). Just incredible. And if you’ve neer seen those hubs up-front, do your best to get the chance. Art.

    Those levers are pure Merckx.

  36. @torvid

    @frank

    His bike in 1990 was the coolest and best set up ever. Of course there were issues with this Mavic group set, but it was so incredibly beautiful.

    The crankset, the levers, and the yellow pedals. The headset (one of which I have in a tin in the basement). Just incredible. And if you’ve neer seen those hubs up-front, do your best to get the chance. Art.

    the yellow flash on the tip of the saddle ties the whole bike together.

    @torvid

    The saddle is a Turbomatic. Despite the cheesy name I loved mine (still got it). Unlike the regular Turbos I think they only came in black which cut down the color matching options.

    You can see the “box of kleenex” aero tail described by Frank in all its horror here.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/85591218@N00/2559620204

    For once I think we really do have to thank the UCI for banning these.

  37. Just when I start thinking maybe my preference for steel bikes of the late ’80s-early ’90s is just my rose-tinted view of what I lusted after back then, the high end pro machine I couldn’t dream of affording…. I see photos like those above and realise, shit no, the bikes WERE better looking back then. I never saw a Mavic ensemble for real, only in my well-thumbed copies of “Winning,” but oh how I lusted for C-Record…. even the Dura Ace of that era was far classier and less “consumer whitegoods” than the modern equivalent. And yes, I still call it an “ensemble,” the term “groupset” just lacks any skerrick of soul or passion.

  38. Wow, strong work, Wiscot! Really nicely done. I like the history lesson, the analysis of the EPO culture, and the information on Charly. On another note, I remember my last exam of college very well. An astronomy course that was supposed to be an easy B. Nope, kind of hard & I had some serious senior-itis going on. A group of dudes I knew from the hockey team all colluded and cheated on the exam. Then boasted about it. Totally different than doping in sports, but I felt much happier about my C than their C+ knowing I didn’t fucking cheat on a college exam. Dirty bastards.

    Sorry if I missed it but was moving all weekend & I’m trying to catch up. Diminutive, eh? How many cms are we talking? I might have a new favorite rider from the 80s/90s…I like how compact yet powerful he looks in the lead photo. Too many skinny-armed dorks these days; I like a rider with a dual set o’ guns!

    I didn’t realize Hinault, Fignon, Madiot & Charly were all on the same team. POWERHOUSE of riders in that stable.

    And what Rudy shades are those? They’re amazing.

  39. My Tommasini has the full C-Record gruppo and some Delta brakes. Super cool stuff. I’ve definitely caught myself daydreaming just staring at that bike. And while I love my current #1, yup, early 90s steel with a nice gruppo seriously trumps over-labeled carbon rigs for me.

  40. C’mon now, one of you lifelong Followers must know Charly’s height.

  41. @Ron

    C’mon now, one of you lifelong Followers must know Charly’s height.

    Charlie don’t have aircraft

    Oh – you mean Charlie Mottet – sorry flashback

  42. @the Engine

    @Ron

    C’mon now, one of you lifelong Followers must know Charly’s height.

    Charlie don’t have aircraft

    Oh – you mean Charlie Mottet – sorry flashback

    NICE!  And he don’t surf, either!

    http://www.hark.com/clips/rtqfqvgvps-charlie-dont-surf

  43. @Ron

    C’mon now, one of you lifelong Followers must know Charly’s height.

    According to some bizarre astrological website with his correct birthdate, he is 1.63 meters tall. 

  44. 1.63 meters? No fucking way! I thought Pozzivivo was the only PRO I tower over. Awesome! Thanks, Buck.

  45. @Ron

    @Buck Rogers

    Nope.  No way he’s 1.63 metres.  I’m 1.68 and  I rode a 50cm frame.  I pick that as a 54 or 56.

  46. @mouse

    @Ron

    @Buck Rogers

    Nope. No way he’s 1.63 metres. I’m 1.68 and I rode a 50cm frame. I pick that as a 54 or 56.

    I don’t know, man.  He is a REALLY wee little man.  I definitely put him in at 1.63m unless I see something published that contradicts my mighty astrology website!

  47. This Dutch Wikipedia page says Mottet is 1.64 metres:

    http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charly_Mottet

  48. All our decorations are down. That is how we spend New Year’s Day every year. All our negribohs still have theirs up though. At our old house there was one family that left theirs up year round and just lit them for Christmas. Ugh!

  49. @Jessica

    All our decorations are down. That is how we spend New Year’s Day every year. All our negribohs still have theirs up though. At our old house there was one family that left theirs up year round and just lit them for Christmas. Ugh!

    Has this comment been under moderation for 10 months or something ?

    It is pretty controversial I guess. Everyone knows decorations come down on Jan 6, not for New Year. Ugh !

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