JVS

Rouleur

Rouleur

by / / 86 posts

Growing up, I imagine my dad did his fair share of worrying about me getting into trouble with chemicals and girls. Like with most problems in life, the solution lay in Cycling; training encouraged healthy behavior and once my dad convinced me to shave my legs, no one needed to worry about the girls anymore.

Cycling caused its fair share of problems of its own, but nothing that couldn’t be solved by more Cycling. I stopped spending as much time on my studies as I might have, and all my creative energies and capacity for remembering things were spent on Cycling. Who won the Tour stage on Bastille Day in 1989? Vincent Barteau. Who were the Founding Fathers? Washington, Franklin, Jefferson…Can I use a life line?

We’re big fellas, my dad and I, and that poses certain challenges in Cycling. A love for suffering and for a sense of accomplishment meant our hearts drifted towards the mountains, but our physiology pulled toward the rollers and flat terrain. We were never going to be the fastest, or the skinniest, or the best sprinters. But we could twist the throttle, watch the the needle rev up to just shy of the red line, and hold it there for hours. We could use our momentum to carry speed over the short, steep hills we found dotted along our routes. At one point in my youth, I remember looking at the little ring on my bike and wondering, in all earnestness, what it was there for.

The first time we went to France, I discovered quite handily why that little ring was there. We were not grimpeurs; we were rouleurs, and rouleurs use the little ring when the road points up for a long time. A rouleur, in Cycling, is a rider who goes well on the flat and rolling terrain. They are characterized less by their size, but by their style on the machine; a magnificent stroke tuned to sustained power, not high revolutions or bursts of acceleration. Rouleurs are good time trialists, they do well on short climbs, but are usually found in the laughing group when the profile starts to look like the cardiogram of a teenage boy who just saw his first pair of boobs. Some of them can climb well for their weight, but a rouleur is rarely at the front when the big mountains come along.

Translated from French, rouleur means having wheels, or to roll. But Hinault would use the word roule in conversation in the context of standing, or pushing, on the pedals. I quite like the sound of that. They have a wide power band, but can only win a sprint from a group of one or a small group of other rouleurs – although technically those tend to be more akin to “drag racing” than “sprinting”. They are characterized by being able to gobble up an enormous amount suffering, and are usually just dim enough to wear a wide smile on their face when its happening. And giggle maniacally when describing the suffering afterward.

Winning isn’t everything to the rouleur, which is why they’re often found among the ranks of the domestique. The rouleur needs to study the map, looking for the right terrain with the right kind of lumps if they’re going to have a chance of being at the front in a road race. They are possibly the most exciting to watch race; races of attrition suit them, as does bad weather – and when they’re in the break, they’re usually dumb enough to take their strength for granted and over-estimate themselves. Betting on the rouleur is a gamble, but their style of racing often means that even when they lose, it was a great show.

Merckx bless the rouleur.

// Folklore // Nostalgia // Tradition

  1. We love the wind as well! Well said Frank!




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  2. A-Merckx! I know I’m not keeping up with the skinny boys up the sustained climbs but give me the chance to run the diesel all day over rolling terrain & watch that crazed smile appear.




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  3. I’m looking for the french word that descibes my skills as a cyclist. All I’ve come up iwth is “LePussy,” “L’ Fat Bastard” and “Monseur Wheelsuckeur.”

    I did do 22 climbs on VVhidbey last Saturday. All in the big cog.




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  4. Thank you Frank, now i finally have a proper term on how to describe myself.




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  5. It is not only the smile when we remember the pain. But also the look on the faces of those who we dropped on the flats, in the wind and on the small climes.

    Then at the top of the big climbs, the look on the faces as they wait for me to catch up with them.




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  6. Yup, that’s me. Rolly-polly low horsepower diesel. You don’t get much, but you get it all day. Not the skinniest, 82 kg at present, and a modest 170cm, I was 76 kg there for a good while, but there was an incident with a chocolate cake recipe, from which I am yet to recover. Broken collarbone did not help.

    Like yourself though, I love to go up big hills, even though I am ill suited and slow.




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  7. @eightzero

    I think it’s “chatte”.

    That route on Whidbey will find the chatte in all of us, and reminds you why Bastogne-Liege-Bastogne is such a hard race. Steep, punchy climbs tightly packed in over a long distance will take it out of you every time, not matter if you’re a grimpeur, a puncheur, a rouleur, or fucking pussy.




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  8. I’ve always liked the Rouleur because they represent fun to me more than any other type of rider. Without the pressure of going up fast, sprinting to the line, or winning for that matter they seem more to be able to take things as they come. If they’re feeling good on the day they can bathe the entire peloton in lactic acid. If not, they can smoke cigarettes, wink at the ladies, and enjoy a laugh. Summie is such a fitting photo for this article. He wins P-R in the ride of his life and proposes to the fairest lady in the velodrome. Two things he’ll die happy having done and never have to do again to be a man. Surely my type of rider as well.




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  9. @Marko on a flat tub at that




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  10. I am rouleur with delusions of grimpeur




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  11. When you say Roleur I definitely think of my fellow countryman Svein Tuft, he is a beast and can really dish out the V when he needs to…




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  12. OH, to only be as deluded as you, my friend. I think myself both, only to cling to your wheel on the flats and then gasp at your vapor trail on the climbs.




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  13. My favorite rouleur shows us how it’s done at 32:53 to 39:44:




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  14. Nice article thanks Frank, I too fit this bill which is a bit of a bugger for a predominantly mountain biker! Luckily here in SA we have a lot of long off road races with great ‘rolling’ dirt road sections that offset the vertical limits that have the horrible habit of including nasty technical sections designed for the those of a smaller, more nimble bent. Still improving all the time (with the help of the Rules and especially the V) 87kg now down from 120kg twelve months ago, have been visited frequently by the Hammer Man in the last 12 months! Great forum, great comments thanks guys.




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  15. @zeitzmar

    My favorite rouleur shows us how it’s done at 32:53 to 39:44:

    Monsieur Leth.. He’s been commenting on danish tv for almost 20 years now, his soothing voice paired with the humming of the camera helicopters makes for the perfect soundtrack to any great race!

    He truly is our very own Ligget..




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  16. Sounds like a great name for a cycling magazine to me!

    http://www.rouleur.cc/home




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  17. By build I guess I should be a Grimpeur (especially as I have lost the 12 Kilo I put on last year after rupturing an Achilles in 2011) but age seems to convert me into a Rouleur. This presents my buddies with a bit of a problem. Per some of the Rouleur comments above it’s great for me to tuck in behind my larger pure Rouleur buddies but when it’s my turn to take the wind they tell me to eat more cakes as they get bugger all benefit!




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  18. @urbanwhitetrash

    I’m whatever you call someone who is bad all around, with delusions of being anything.




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  19. And they are always amongst the best looking of the peloton




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  20. Ha! Nice one, Frank… Chapeau




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  21. @Ken Ho

    Yup, that’s me. Rolly-polly low horsepower diesel. You don’t get much, but you get it all day. Not the skinniest, 82 kg at present, and a modest 170cm, I was 76 kg there for a good while, but there was an incident with a chocolate cake recipe, from which I am yet to recover. Broken collarbone did not help.

    Classic…

    I probably am (and always have been) a rouleur, if I’m anything at all.

    Even back in the day, when I was hovering somewhere between 82 and 78 kg (at 193 cm, or 6′ 4″), I was never the one to start any fireworks, however much I wanted to.

    Likewise, at present, everybody can out-sprint me and almost everybody can climb big hills faster than I. Most cyclists can out-smart me tactically, I reckon, but on a good day, when the legs are strong and the diesel is firing on all cylinders, I can drop the majority of my friends. I might take me the best part of a day, but in the end I’ll drop ’em. Like the great Krabbé says about that lovable character Lebusque: “It’s not an attack; he’s not capable of that. He’s just strangling us slowly…”




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  22. @urbanwhitetrash

    delusions of grimpeur

    Now that is lexicon worthy.




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  23. @ped

    And they are always amongst the best looking of the peloton

    LOVE Ludo/Lando!!!




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  24. Well said. Climbs well for his weight. Can roll hard on the flats and rollers. Likes bad weather. When I was young I lived in Connecticut and fancied myself a climber. Not so much. If only Winning Magazine had used more terms like this I would have known my two wheeled calling sooner.




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  25. I had some stickers, err, umm, I mean “decals” on the chainstays of my Cannondale. When viewed from behind – which was a view others rarely had – one stay said “Sprints like a climber” and the other stay said “Climbs like a sprinter”. The travesty in all this is that I’m don’t think I even qualify as a Rouleur. I guess my only saving grace is that I’ll Rule #9 in a heart beat. I’ve been threatening to moved to Kentucky (if my house ever sells) and the guy I ride with all the time was lamenting this. He’s like “Dude, you’re the only one that will ride with me no matter what the weather and you’re the only one that understands that every ride isn’t a testosterone pissing match.” Little does he know that his zone 2 is my zone 4 so in actuality I am pissing testosterone – along with blood – just to keep up.




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  26. Did someone say rouleur?




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  27. @Cyclops

    I had some stickers, err, umm, I mean “decals” on the chainstays of my Cannondale. When viewed from behind – which was a view others rarely had – one stay said “Sprints like a climber” and the other stay said “Climbs like a sprinter”. The travesty in all this is that I’m don’t think I even qualify as a Rouleur. I guess my only saving grace is that I’ll Rule #9 in a heart beat. I’ve been threatening to moved to Kentucky (if my house ever sells) and the guy I ride with all the time was lamenting this. He’s like “Dude, you’re the only one that will ride with me no matter what the weather and you’re the only one that understands that every ride isn’t a testosterone pissing match.” Little does he know that his zone 2 is my zone 4 so in actuality I am pissing testosterone – along with blood – just to keep up.

    Nomination for a most succinct and perfect post. Remember this one when it is most needed.




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  28. @frank Yates was a beautiful gorilla.




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  29. @urbanwhitetrash

    I am rouleur with delusions of grimpeur

    I liked how you put it during the cogal: A mountain goat in a gorilla costume.




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  30. Enjoyed this. Definitely my favorite type of rider and the kind I want to be/think I am even if my body type is probably better suited for something else. 2011 P-R is probably my favorite race to watch over and over again.




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  31. @Fins

    Enjoyed this. Definitely my favorite type of rider and the kind I want to be/think I am even if my body type is probably better suited for something else. 2011 P-R is probably my favorite race to watch over and over again.

    Agreed and Summie’s bike fits him perfectly just like another rouleur we know.




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  32. @Buck Rogers Those Rudy project “helmets” must be due a comeback, Cla-sick




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  33. I don’t know what I am. I do know I’m not a puncheur.

    Great post!




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  34. @frank I’m a Clydesdale. I’m lean and mean at 6-4 and 210 lbs…I don’t get lean-er. Not even a middle age beer-bump. My cycling mates love to draft behind me, and then drop me on the hills. I catch them on the other side because I descend like a loaded shopping cart: quickly reaching escape velocity. This season I hit 84 Kph on rabbit ears pass near Steamboat, CO. I pass cars, too. I’d like to be a grimpeur, but I am designed as a rouleur. We are the diesel engines that grind out the miles.

    Fine article. Cycling caused its fair share of problems of its own, buy nothing that couldn’t be solved by more Cycling. Brilliant!! VLV




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  35. @frank

    Did someone say rouleur?

    I’m halfway through Yate’s book, cracking read and (apart from not going into the doping side of he sport in his day which he sets out his reasons for at the outset) one that doesn’t pull any punches. A bit like the way he rode.

    I know this was posted a few weeks ago but it’s one of my favorites.

    I’d say I’m probably more rouleur than anything else although I lack the speed and endurance. For the first time at the weekend, though, I experienced the rather marvelous joy of dropping someone without any real effort. Twice, the first time into a mean little headwind and the second time as we hit some rolling countryside on the way home. Neither time was intentional, I was going steadily but not hard having made myself feel slightly odd the day before on a longer ride.




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  36. Rouleurs are good time trialists




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