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1er Paris–Roubaix Femmes

It’s autumn and that means cyclocross! Bashing around Belgian farmland in the rain and mud and sand and snow in generally shite, “Why the fuck would you?” conditions.

And!

Paris fucking Roubaix!

In autumn! Thanks, incredibly poorly managed and politicised pandemic response and incredibly selfish wankers.

Outside of cyclocross, it’s probably my favourite race? First equal with Strade Bianche Rosa, especially when it’s raining. Anything cobbles and / or hosed with mud is my safe space.

And this year, for the first time in the 118 races since 1896 when it was first run, there’s a women’s race! Fucking progress right there, eh! And it was raining buckets and blowing a gale and those 29km of cobbles were muddy and grotty and slippery and terrifying and the riders hurled themselves over them, crashed, got up, did it again. Best 3 hours on a Saturday arvo in a looooong time.

Yaaah, but. The ASO, who organised this, have had an equally long time to pull their white dude fingers out and make it happen. They didn’t. They run the biggest stage races in the world including Tour de France, Vuelta a España, as well as a heap of those hardcore one day races like Liège–Bastogne–Liège and La Flèche Wallonne. Their equivalent women’s races to those big tours are 1-day patronising yawns.

Could they come up with the same 91,000€ prize money for women’s winner as the men’s? How about 7,005€? What about smashing the 5-star cobbles of Trouée d’Arenberg? The women started just next door in Denian. Also nah. Superficially the ASO had valid reasons. Normally the men have done 100km of riding and a bunch of cobbles before barrelling at 60+km/h into the trench, which ‘sorts the peloton out a bit’. Obviously modifying the women’s course so they had some cobbles first was beyond everyone’s capabilities.

And then there’s the M-word. Paris-Roubaix is a Monument. That means it’s one of the five, 250+km 1-day races. It’s also one of the four Cobbled Classics, which are similar lengths plus, obviously, cobbles. The women’s Paris-Roubaix was a quick 115.6km, done and dusted (or jet-washed if you’re Sarah Roy) in 3 hours. None of that 6 hours in the saddle stuff for whatever the ASO thinks women riders are. It’s like back when teh menz thought that if women ran a marathon their uteruses would fall out or something.

And finally (not really but I wanna watch Legends of Tomorrow), there’s the live coverage. Or absence of the first 60km or so. Which is pretty typical. The EWS Enduro World Series this year reliably missed getting the women’s runs because “something something crew hadn’t set up something,” and that’s the top-level competition. There are more men’s races and more actual racing time shown with live or delayed coverage. The stories men tell about men racing are nuanced and full of drama and emotion and narrative arcs and character growth and are accompanied with equally dramatic images and video. Men simply care more about other men. And yes, those men, they are white.

Yah anyway, here’s Sarah Roy shredding on those cobbles.

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Somewhere Between Krumme Laake and Dämeritzsee

Got my arse out the door and into Germanic nature today. First time in a long time. Balcony / kitchen riding on my trainer has been the default I’ve fallen into for the last few months. But I needed to actually ride and wear all that fancy gear I bought earlier in the year and do those fun things like get lost, are we there yet? and surprise! here’s a bridge where you need it.

Pink socks I wore for the first time and managed to smear my chainring all over. Lucky I was using dry lube (not the name of my sex tape) and it washed out. Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado kit. Riding outdoors with a cadence sensor makes me really wish I had a power meter (or maybe Crank Brothers would make power meter pedals?). One banana for 3 hours was cutting it fine. Two bidons was actually about right but both should have been electrolyte.

The riding though. Funny how being bolted in place on an indoor trainer makes you forget how to do things like ride on sand and roots. I’ve got weirdly strong from all the indoor trainer riding and weirdly weak in holding a good riding position. Cars are still scary, even though German drivers are generally pretty considerate — if you also make like a car and be very literal in describing what you’re about to do. Forests are the shit. East of Berlin is fucking beautiful. Lakes are also the shit. The houses out there make me yearn for living in an actual house surrounded by trees and stuff. Getting whistled at by the boyz in their whips on Sonnenallee is … cheers lads, good to know I’m home.

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24 Hour Nürburgring

The best sound is after the sharp right at Aremberg, under the bridge at the start of Fuchsröhre and all the way down to the bottom of the Nordschleife at Breidscheid, engines and turbos spooled up and redlining. Better than the long straight of Döttinger-Höhe. That corner is where the Nürburgring starts for me, into the forest and a tight, narrow winding road with no runoff that goes on and on. I feel the velocity and get buffeted by braking and acceleration just watching laps. And the racing. All that plus terrifying high-speed passes, weather that changes in five minutes and across the 24 kilometre track. My safe space is 250 km/h down the fox hole at 24 Hour Nürburgring.

I would have watched it all night, but like last year it got red-flagged. Fog and rain and not the kind of visibility for maximum hoonage. 24 hours turned into a 3–hour sprint. And the two commentators living their best bogan uncle selves. Something about Scandinavian Flick, keto diet, taking the apex with the shopping trolley, beer bottles at the back balancing out the weight, I don’t believe you were going to the fruit and veggies, it’s beer and chips for you, broken struts, broken steering racks, making the straight race line between spun–out Audi and Armco on slippery wet grass, cutting and shaving tread into slicks to make one last set of tires.

I love the sound and noise and velocity and can smell the engines and brake pads and metal and fluids and hear the ratchets and air guns and feel the crew lying on their backs contorting themselves into the machinery and the whole process of attrition, people and engineering being worn down over those long high-speed hours, this is art.

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Berliner Mauerweg: Teltow Kanal and Ehemalige Autobahnbrücke Dreilinden

I’ve ridden over that bridge many times, the last in the damp grey drizzle on Tag der Deutschen Einheit when I totally over-extended myself (seems to be a theme?). This is the first time I’ve seen it from this direction, coming along the very sandy, loose, dusty and full of exposed roots single track from Schleuse Kleinmachnow. One of my favourite parts of the Mauerweg and in general to ride and eventually I’ll stitch together a whole — multiple whole routes from those glorious cobbles up Rudower Straße all the way to those cobbles up Wannseestraße. Simple pleasures involve getting thrashed on cobbles and slithering around on single track.

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Berliner Mauerweg: Friederikenhofstraße North to Großwohnsiedlung Waldsassener Strasse

It was way more bright yellow and intense blue. And that’s not a small house on the prairie, that’s a very large apartment block over the horizon.

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Berliner Mauerweg: Forest on Ziethener Straße near Mahlower Seegraben

Another Sunday another practicing of Physical Distancing.

After the last weeks’ fun, I wanted to find some lanes and tracks like the ones around Groß- and Kleinziethen and Friederikenhof. Failed spectacularly. Apparently Großbeeren is the drain I circulate around and end up in fun places like Neubeeren or on the drag through Ruhlsdorf to Teltow.

The first third was a joy, hitting cobbles at 30+km/h obviously, and there’s so many new cobbles to be found (Keplerstr and around thank you very much), and new lanes and single track and generally incredibly pretty and very empty of people, and for some reason the people around there are reliably friendly. The second third was mostly a mess riding on 70km/h roads through industrial parks and joyless towns like Teltow. But! I knew the canal was nearby and kept veering right into the forest when it finally appeared and I knew I was more or less back on track and found the most glorious, incredibly sandy single track running from Scheus Kleinmachnow all the way to the Ehemalige Autobahnbrücke Dreilinden, putting me back for a moment on the Berliner Mauerweg. As one old German woman out for a stroll with her husband said, “Ha ha it’s like a sea! A sea of sand!” as I skidded and slid in all directions on tires and tire pressure very much not for sand.

More cobbles and the truly brutal short climb up Wannseestraße, then more (non-cobble) suffering up and down Nikolskoer Weg and Pfauenininselchausee the roads getting busier all the time with very distinctly not ‘social distancing’ and finally onto the most boring part of the ride, which road cyclists love, which proves they are a boring and unimaginative bunch, the blandness of Königstraße followed by the monotonous straightness through Grünewald. There was an utter mob on Spanische Allee outside AVUS-Treff Spinner-Brücke, hundreds of all-white bros in black leather on their garbage wagon Harleys doing the same white trash shit as their brethren in the US, strutting their ‘right’ to gather and super-spread while the cops looked on doing nothing in the way they always do when it’s right wing white people they’re being ordered to police.

And the ride back into the city, hitting every red light because the lights are timed for cars moving at fifty and not bikes moving at any speed less. I over-extended myself a bit and defo was feeling it when I got home, even with all the liquid and rice cakes I took. And this might be my last long ride for a while because here comes Ramadan which, like always, I never know if I’ll do until it’s done.

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Berliner Mauerweg: Ziethener Straße near S-Bahn

Practicing Physical Distancing again, Part 2. On the sandy old road of Ziethener Straße that becomes a very sandy, frictionless slide of singletrack running parallel to the S-Bahn on the way back to my happy place, those 1200 metres of cobbles along Mozart and Petkusser Straßen. I was having a very good time here, and my only other thought was, “One bidon of electrolyte and a banana is slightly on the thin side for three hours.”

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Berliner Mauerweg: Ziethener Straße near Mahlower Seegraben

Practicing Physical Distancing again by going for a ride south of the Berliner Mauerweg ’cos it was getting like an outdoor festival along that stretch. Like the virus takes Easter off ’cos, “I respect Jesus when he’s harrowing Hell. Also, bunnies!”?

Plan for the day was around 60 kilometres of riding, following the Mauerweg all the way to the Canal in Lichterfelde and then reversing, mainly ’cos I like riding the roads and trails around Großziethen and want to explore them more, and ’cos the thought of hitting the Mozartstraße cobbles twice. Twice! Today would have been Paris-Roubaix and on the Sunday in Hell we worship cobbles. Plan got bailed on at Marienfelder Allee. I’d already been thinking of finding an alternate route back with all the people, but crossing that highway, both sides of the street lined with people on bikes all jammed up together. 0/10 partaking in that wilful stupidity.

South then, which I kinda know, ’cos I rode through Großbeeren a couple of times before, and was all, “I know here, I think I got lost here,” and fanging eastwards at Frederikenhof (which is on the opposite side of the fields I photographed last week), and riding the prettiest old roads and trails, heading back to those cobbles. There’s another photo, saving that for the next post, just before I turned north on the so sandy it’s a beach without the ocean singletrack, going parallel to the S-Bahn. Much slippy slidey and nearly kissing the floor once. Very wrong tires and tire pressure for that kind of fun. Still fun.

Those cobbles again, hitting them at speed, in the big ring and in a slightly harder gear and just floating over them. Very vibrational floating, but ooh yeah does cobbles riding come alive when you’re going fast. And then on to Kleinziethen (near Großziethen, duh!), and finding the way back to Rudow I’d meant to ride out on. More pretty roads and turning onto Rudower Straße, hitting 3 kilometres of tiny cobbles. I could have ridden the asphalt bike path, or the asphalt bike strip on the shoulder. No, I couldn’t. Bit of a killer in the end, just on and on and getting drained and it was a warm sunny day also, not my ideal riding weather at all, and by the time I was hauling down Neuköllner / Rudower Str. / Buschkrugallee / Karl-Marx-Str. I was feeling it. Not feeling it so much I couldn’t destroy a bro on a fancy gravel bike who tried to chick me at every set of lights from Rudow to Teltow Kanal. Every set of lights. And started shouting at me ’cos apparently chick going faster than bro make bro sadangry? And by ‘destroy’ I mean kept the same pace I’d been on the whole time. Okay, a tiiiny bit extra pace. I’m petty like that.

And photo. Physical Distancing. You may be able to see some people in the distance.

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Berliner Mauerweg: Fields West of Lichtenrade

Part three of practicing Physical Distancing by going for a ride along the Berliner Mauerweg.

This photo is never going to do justice to the insane yellow-green of the fields, or the empty flat expanse, and if you look really really really close, you’ll see a few people wandering out in it. This was just before I turned off the Mauerweg and took a guess at how to get back to Neukölln. Favourite way of riding, that. So long as the sun was more-or-less behind me, I was going home. My bike’s in truly terrible condition these days, two years now since the last rebuild and I’ve done something like 12,000 kilometres and some of the components have done way more than that. But it’s amazing how it just keeps going (until it doesn’t hahahaha not funny when I’m in the middle of nowhere).

Yes, this is work. I’m still a dancer, and doing ballet barre at home and all the yoga and core and other work is part of it, but doing this kind of physical labour is necessary for me. It feels like after more than twenty years of this, if I stop I’ll fall apart. And I’m very aware of the luxury I have (despite being poor and all the other caveats) to do this, now especially. Let’s talk about Gaza, or white French doctors proposing testing Coronavirus vaccines in Africa, and casually dehumanising a whole continent in the same sentence they do the same to sex workers. Or the massive increase in racism, Islamophobia and Asianphobia (dunno if that’s quite a word but it’s defo a thing), simultaneous with governments pushing through anti-transgender legislation and utterly destroying the arts.

I loved biking through and around Großziethen for the third time in as many weeks and loved seeing so many Muslimah women and families out there. I feel very much calmer getting into Brandenburg seeing them and knowing it’s not all Naziland like Zeuthen was when I last biked that scary town. And as I came back into Neukölln, I saw gangs of cops out, five or six of them at a time, all white, all in stab-proof vests and heavy gear, and all of them doing the intimidation act and harassing brown boys. Yeah, don’t think we haven’t seen that fuckery get dialled up in every country in the last few weeks. It was a good ride, but it’s never not political like this. Every time I go out, it’s political.

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Berliner Mauerweg: Mozartstraße Cobbles

Part two of practicing Physical Distancing by going for a ride along the Berliner Mauerweg.

Going clockwise from Neukölln, it’s all pretty cushy up till Lichtenrade – the whole Mauerweg is pretty cushy, just the distance and very varied surfaces. Around Lichtenrade is the first (optional but not really ’cos we’re here for it) single-track, hard-packed sandy earth alongside fields, shortly after which rail lines cut the Weg and it’s a two-ish kilometre detour into the very pretty and very expensive-looking, most southern suburb of Berlin, along some of the roughest cobbles I’ve ever had the pleasure of being pounded in the arse by. (Hands are not so thrilled with the pounding, but suck it up, hands.)

It’s quite difficult in a photo to make cobbles look as gnarly as they really are, and this final section, looking back up Mozartstraße. from the corner of Beethovenstraße is the smoothest of the lot. And maybe I’ve been riding cobbles so much that I’ve got used to them and know how to ride them, and my memory is more of the thrashing I received the first time than how far from flat and smooth they really are. Anyway, I always wanted to photograph them to remember how much fun I have on them. And every time I hit some cobbles I think there should be a Spring Classic in Berlin, touring the cobbles. This lot would be in, the brutal cobble hill on Wannseestraße by Griebnitzsee also, and the hilariously rough and slippery and corner-y and defo scary when it’s wet and there’s any velocity involved Jägersteig in the forest of Waldgelände Frohnau at the far north of Berlin. Cobbles. Better than asphalt.