Anatomy of a Photo: Sticks and Stones

It’s no secret that the cobbles are the domain of the big men. Look through the list of winners in Flanders and Roubaix, and you won’t find any flyweights, grimpeurs or probably anyone under 80kg. Ok, maybe lighter than that, but more likely the weight will be compacted in muscle and distributed over a shorter body than Jolly Naughty Wiggins displays here.

With the Keepers Tour locked and loaded for the Euro Spring, the anticipation of riding the roads I’ve revered for decades is building to a point that could be deemed unhealthy by outside observers. Anyone within earshot gets bombarded with “did I tell you I’m going to be riding the cobbles?”, usually met with a blank stare and a quick retreat. But after I think about the truckloads of awesome to be had riding the hallowed ground, my mind invariably wanders to the ‘what if’ scenarios. What if Il Profetta gets rattled to death and cracks? Well, it’s meant to be, it’ll be dying in its bithplace, a return to the soil from whence it was born. What if The Lion tells me to Rule #5 it and stop being a pussy? I can live with that, even welcome it (especially if we are in the bar after the ride!). But what if my over-zealousness gets the better of me and I’m sent plummeting to the ground, and my spindly Twiggo-esque limbs succumb to the stones that even the Lion’s mighty knee had to concede to? Snap, game over.

So it looks like the best preparation will be a training regime of Welli-Roubaix gravé riding, peppered with weights to build some insulating muscle. And for fuck’s sake, I’m a mountain biker, how hard can it be to ride over some rocks? Harder than I can even imagine, I’d say. I’m praying for a wet Roubaix next Spring, but only for the Pros… I won’t mind riding in dust one bit.

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76 Replies to “Anatomy of a Photo: Sticks and Stones”

  1. @Blah

    Dunno, looks easy to me:

    Why are they paperboy-ing over cobbles? Doesn’t that just prolong the agony?

  2. @Nate
    I figured it was sliding side to side because it’s so slippery.
    I believe the pic is of Johan Museeuw just after he crashed in 1998, smashing up his knee.
    It’s in the Arenberg, and they’re really moving along when they hit it.
    The pileup in the background may mean the guy side on to camera is just getting moving again. The guy to the right of screen is off his bike, which supports that.

  3. Sweet Baby Jeebus that’s an ugly photo up top!

    Compare those “guns” to what you see in shots of the Badger or Kelly, the emaciation is scary. I don’t care if the lesser weight makes them quicker, I can’t abide a sportsman that has to look malnourished just to be competitive!

  4. ” And for fuck’s sake, I’m a mountain biker, how hard can it be to ride over some rocks”

    I am also a mountain biker, but despite years of racing in mud, there are not too many things on the planet slicker for rubber tires than mud covered uneven surfaces with something solid underneath- i.e. cobblestones!

    While I am unable to attend the upcoming epic keepers’ cobblefestwoodstockpalooza, I secretly have the same fear as Frank mentioned. The thought of riding over slimed covered cobbles on skinny tires scares the pavè out of me. The advice I have heard over and over from those who have made the pilgrimage to Mecca (Merckxa) is to ride fast, keep your head up, with loose elbows/arms. The more tension you have in your upper body, the more likely you are to to meet the fate of Wiggo.

  5. @michael

    excellent photoshopping, albeit I can’t work out what is actually the message here, other than a riot cop spraying him with orange paint – any danger of a caption?

  6. If you haven’t seen the video, just Google UC Davis pepper spray or something like that. Then move on to a Google images search.

  7. recently back from 6 weeks in France I left my nuts on a cobblestone road somewhere around Beaune.

  8. Care of my hero, lads. Thing is, is this not the photo of him smashing his kneecap in 1998? If it is, it is true Hardman stuff. I still remember his victory subsequently in 2000 when he pointed at his knee. Tearjerking and wonderful Rule #5.

  9. @michael

    If you haven’t seen the video, just Google UC Davis pepper spray or something like that. Then move on to a Google images search.

    a trifle inappropriate, but bloody funny +1

  10. @Zoncolan

    Care of my hero, lads. Thing is, is this not the photo of him smashing his kneecap in 1998? If it is, it is true Hardman stuff. I still remember his victory subsequently in 2000 when he pointed at his knee. Tearjerking and wonderful Rule #5.

    Here ’tis:

  11. famous last words, but in all sports, when the going gets nasty, it’s the tension that kills you – all about relaxing and being casually aggressive

  12. @michael
    I think the Lion is getting pepper sprayed because he is passively sitting somewhere that the UC Davis cop feels he shouldn’t be. He is blocking a public thoroughfare and therefore “deserves” to be attacked.

    Damn fine photoshopping job, by the way.

  13. It amazes me that Wiggo took a look at his wool oversocks and said, these are not nearly tall enough. Best I get my socks to pull up through them to make up the difference.

  14. @brett

    What if Il Profetta gets rattled to death and cracks? Well, it’s meant to be, it’ll be dying in its bithplace, a return to the soil from whence it was born.

    Can’t believe you thought about not bringing it. You building up tubs, or are you going with your Abrossio clinchers?

    If my beloved R3 dies upon the stones, we shall make a pire of our loyal machines and allow the Lion to throw in the match. A-Merckx.

    What if The Lion tells me to Rule #5 it and stop being a pussy?

    Then it will be like any other conversation you have with anyone else?

  15. precious, frank, precious

    I would just pray to the arenberg forest that mercy be applied upon the Rule V, gracefully that the bikes life at least be spared

    but then again, somethings are just worth it

    @brett, that is a killer photo
    It goes to remind me that our PRO’s suffer beyond measure, and are just a walking pile of dust sometimes, catalyzed w/calcium and some iron, for others healthy doses of CERA/EPO and speed, but for mortals, they are just starving

    I always look at the prologues to see who comes in form, measuring the gap between the jersey sleeve, and upper arms…they usually gap pretty good for those who arrive in form, not to mention the sunken cheeks/eyes, and prominent maxilla bones

  16. @brett

    @Mikael Liddy
    @Nate
    @Marcus
    Go easy on Twiggo there guys… see, the point I was making is my ‘guns’ are kinda similar… but put out less firepower, obviously.

    If your pins (hardly guns) are that skinny: On the bright side, at least you will have no problems with dosing up on Belgian Toothpaste due to the massive amounts of beach sand that you must have ingested over the years.

  17. @brett

    @Mikael Liddy
    @Nate
    @Marcus
    Go easy on Twiggo there guys… see, the point I was making is my ‘guns’ are kinda similar… but put out less firepower, obviously.

    I was going to preface my comment by saying “I have no right to say this but I am going to say it anyways.” Then I remembered this is the internet.

  18. @wiscot

    @michael
    I think the Lion is getting pepper sprayed because he is passively sitting somewhere that the UC Davis cop feels he shouldn’t be. He is blocking a public thoroughfare and therefore “deserves” to be attacked.
    Damn fine photoshopping job, by the way.

    Best explanation yet.

  19. @michael

    @wiscot

    @michael
    I think the Lion is getting pepper sprayed because he is passively sitting somewhere that the UC Davis cop feels he shouldn’t be. He is blocking a public thoroughfare and therefore “deserves” to be attacked.
    Damn fine photoshopping job, by the way.

    Best explanation yet.

    I thought it was the Mapei vomit kit.

  20. Haha. BTW, my Uncle lives in Brussels. Has an empty nest there. Next time we’re in Europe, we’re bound to stop in.
    To rub it in, he owns a flat in Chelsea as well. Could never afford to stay in it, but nice to know it’s there.

  21. That pic of Twiggins never fails to shock me!

    Not really sure what you can do to prepare for the pave. I rode it this year for the first time; totally awesome!

    Just amazing that the pros manage to ride it at such speed. Chapeau!

  22. I think it sucks when you are bombing along on nice smooth pave’ and then come to a stretch of “Idaho Department of Making My Life Miserable” chip-seal. Seriously the speed drops 2-3kph and the amount of concentration required to keep hammering at the previous rate is mentally taxing and we’re talking mere chip-seal. I can only imagine what the cobbles must be like.

  23. +1 cyclops
    here in the ozarks, that shit-n-seal was more like pave’ than any hillbilly would credit. For example one time I was toodling along on a 10k stretch of rough as a corn cob shitnseal and my freaking lock ring worked loose and came off, my 12 t slipped off and all of a sudden I am singlespeeding it the rest of the way home, mid cassettethe end of the freebody and I moved the chain up half way, just hoping it didn’t split up on me. Soft pedaled the way home as I don’t carry any lock ring tools in the ole pocket. Got home though and just shook my head.

  24. @Souleur
    Yeah, here in WI they do the shit ‘n seal a lot. Sometimes it’s big, cream colored pebbly shit, sometimes it’s a fine black gravel. The former is like riding on marbles, the latter sticks like fucking glue to your bike. It also usually requires avoiding certain roads for several weeks until cars pound it smooth. Then, of course, they do it on roads that really don’t need to be done and ignore the ones that need it. I swear they just get done when some pencil-pusher looks at a file and says “yup, hasn’t been resurfaced in X years, must be time” and never actually checks to see if it needs done.

  25. @itburns
    Yeah, I could actually understand the cop’s action if it was pure black spray paint he was using to cover up that ugly kit. Mind you, he’d be spraying a lot of cyclists if he was the ugly kit police . . .

  26. @Blah

    @Zoncolan

    Care of my hero, lads. Thing is, is this not the photo of him smashing his kneecap in 1998? If it is, it is true Hardman stuff. I still remember his victory subsequently in 2000 when he pointed at his knee. Tearjerking and wonderful Rule #5.

    Here ’tis:

    I would fall, break my ass, and otherwise completely humiliate myself trying to do that on a bike

  27. @wiscot
    Here in NorCal where there is no real winter to tear up the roads and the state is broke they do cheap chipseal but prefer to just let the road deteriorate into a gravelly, potholed mess. Great fun to pound over.

  28. Yeah, rub it in frank, we know. I really would consider a move ENTIRELY based upon the riding terrain of my possible destination. Some people consider education, some church, some business…screw it, Souleur only considers one thing

    -the Riding
    -beautiful hors categorie climbs
    -chicken bone grabbing descents
    -pave’
    -fellow V riders
    and i would be all in!

    and seattle is one of those (oh, and the java)

    In the mean time, it was like my ride today, 42*, light wind which was nice, no gravel today, just a nice easy role out. No traffic, 3 dogs. No hammering this time of the year for me.

  29. @frank

    @Nate,@Souleur, @Cyclops
    Here in Seattle we have 20% cobbled grades. Because Seattle kicks ass.
    Oops.

    We have 20%s too, on what I will now dub Caltrans Cobbles.

    @Souleur
    I recall from my youth parts of the Ozarks with roads we called “tummy ticklers.” Constant up and down, pretty straight. You’d fly down the descents (in a car). At the bottom there would be a “DIP” sign, and then straight back up. Do they have those in your parts? I’d imagine those would be pure suffering on a bike.

    @DerHoggz
    That is completely absurd.

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