VCSE’s 2015 Cycling News Reader Poll

I posted my thoughts on the Cycling News Reader Poll last year so here’s this years submission. I haven’t posted anything since the end of the Vuelta for all sorts of different reasons so there might be an end of season review feel to this post as well (maybe!).

I haven’t written about every nominee as it does feel a bit like the Cycling News team went with ten nominees for the Best Male category and then wondered if there would be a bit of a Twitterstorm if they didn’t have the same number of nominees in the other categories. While some of the nominations feel like they have been added for the sake of it, there are other categories where I don’t know enough about the subject matter to comment on whether or not a riders inclusion is warranted. Either way, there won’t be pages and pages on the Mountain Bike or Cyclocross categories.

So without fanfare or drum roll here’s my picks for the 2015.

Best Male Road Rider

So the normal suspects you would expect to see in an end of year poll are hear, alongside a couple of surprises. Lets deal with those first.

Peter Sagan
Peter Sagan

Richie Porte started the year in fantastic form winning Paris Nice for the second time amongst other things and generally looking like a better rider than Chris Froome during the early part of the year. Things began to unravel at the Giro and he began to resemble the rider who hadn’t exactly thrived when he was asked to pick up the team leadership from Froome in the 2014 Tour. Porte’s results post his return to racing after the Giro were less than spectacular and he even found himself slipping in his support role to best pal Froome at the Tour. If I was filling out Porte’s report card in April he would have got a A star but ahead of what is now (probably) a make or break move to BMC in 2016 he’s probably a C minus.

Another ‘What were they thinking?’ addition to the Best Male nomination is Mark Cavendish. Cav started the year under pressure to deliver results at Etixx and ended the year with a new team. While he isn’t the only sprinter to have had a less than stellar year (Marcel Kittel anyone?) it wasn’t perhaps the return to winning ways that everyone (the rider, his team, his fans) wanted. Sure Cav notched up another Tour stage win but he was completely outshone by a resurgent Andre Griepel in terms of number of wins and by the German’s victory on the most important stage of all in Paris. Cav of course remains a massive personality in the peloton and among UK fans but even the most diehard Cav supporter would find it hard to justify his selection as the best rider.

Another early starter was Alexander Kristoff. After Flanders I asked if anyone could stop him from winning any race he chose. Well as with so many predictions there was an element of hubris and Kristoff didn’t go on to win stages at the Tour for fun. In fact other than a low key win towards the end of the year it felt as if the Katusha rider had slipped from the radar screen completely.

Perhaps the sprinter who did the best job of retaining form over the whole season was John Degenkolb. With Marcel Kittel’s catastrophic loss of form Degenkolb became the key focus for his Giant Alpecin team in 2015. That Degenkolb took his first monument in Milan San Remo was perhaps less of a surprise than him taking his second a matter of weeks later in Paris Roubaix. Unlike his rivals Degenkolb was adaptable enough to still win grand tour bunch sprints including the final day around Madrid in the Vuelta. Degenkolb, once a target for Etixx as an eventual replacement for Tom Boonen the irony is that while the team retain the shampoo brand title sponsor it is Kittel who is leaving for the Belgian outfit.

Of course it wouldn’t be a Best Male poll without the Tour winner and sure enough Chris Froome is included. I’ll credit Froomey for not quite sticking to the script this year and looking pretty ordinary on the bike until the latter stages of the Dauphine. The way that he and his Sky teammates bossed the Tour from stage 2 onwards without too much there to unsettle them deserved better than the piss that was literally poured on them in France. There was a tilt a Vuelta Tour double but that was undone by another accident that may or may not have been bought on by bike handling skills. A second Tour win for the honorary Brit is no mean achievement but no better or worse than the other grand tour winners from this year.

And what of those two? Alberto Contador won the Giro pretty much singlehanded as his Tinkoff teammates struggled to keep pace with Astana. It was pretty clear how much this had taken out of him when he was the first of the big names to really suffer in the Tour. The Giro win didn’t taste quite as sweet while struggling to keep up with Froome and co in July and it’s no surprise that Contador wants to go out with a band in France next year. Fabio Aru was up and down like a yoyo on the Giro and then later during the Vuelta but showed enough to hold on to second place in Italy and then go one better in Spain. Perhaps not the most popular winner of the Vuelta thanks to his team and the manner of the win he looks increasingly like the favoured rider at Astana.

When the BBC crown their Sports Personality each year the debate afterwards often centres less on the winners sporting success as much as are they in fact a personality. When Bradley Wiggins won in 2012 both boxes could be firmly ticked as he rocked up in a wickedly tailored suit and was pissed before the broadcast had even finished. All of that plus Britain’s first ever Tour winner and an Olympic Gold medallist to (Chelsea) boot! Froome the following year wasn’t really in the running, despite Sky’s best efforts to add colour to him. Politeness doesn’t really ‘sell’. Peter Sagan started the year unable to win. I wondered if the pressure of his multi million dollar contract at Tinkoff was having an effect. A trip to the US for the Tour of California where they LOVE him provided the rejuvination and while there wasn’t a win at the Tour the green jersey was duly claimed. It was the end of season single handed win at the world championships that delivered the result that Oleg Tinkoff’s millions demanded but it was the return of Sagan’s sense of fun in post stage interviews at the Tour that cements him as my pick for Best Male rider of 2015.

Best Male Team

Fortunately Cycling News allow us a choice. Don’t fancy any of their nominee’s? Pick one of your own. And that’s what I have done with my Best Male Team selection.

MTN Qhubeka might not have been the winningest team of 2015. In fact they didn’t pick up masses of victories full stop, but it was the significance of what they achieved this year that makes them my pick for Best Male Team.

Bringing Brian Smith on board as General Manager saw the team step up a gear with a number of high profile signings and key changes in equipment to become one of the most distinctive outfits in the peloton. A stage win in the Tour and the Vuelta and Edvald Boasson Hagen winning the overall at the Tour of Britain were the arguably bigger wins than the KOM jersey at the Dauphine but more importantly that was won by a black African rider: Daniel Teklehaimanot. Smith has the challenge of continuing to get the best out of an ageing team of ‘big’ names like new addition Cavendish and promoting the best of the African riders. If he can do this it could be one of the most important components of cycling becoming a more diverse and genuinely global sport.

Best Female Road Rider

Lizzie Armitstead. No contest really. It might be a little bit churlish to say that Marianne Vos being injured for most of the season gave Lizzie a clear run but that would be pretty disrespectful to a talented core of riders within the women’s pro peloton just as much as it would be disrespectful to Lizzie.

Winning the world cup for the second year in a row demonstrated her form over the course of the season and the world championships was the icing on the cake. More importantly the way that she rode the race in 2015 showed that she had learnt the lessons of 2014 and didn’t let a winning position slip. The pressure will be on now (not least from a tendency to big up GB medal hopes by lazy journo’s) for a gold medal in the Olympic road race in Rio next year. The course doesn’t suit her but if anyone has the mental ability to overcome that it’s Lizzie Armitsead.

Best Women’s Team

Boels Dolmans might seem like the obvious choice. They’re Lizzie Armitstead’s team as well as the berth for riders like Evelyn Stevens. But my pick for Best Women’s team would be Velocio SRAM. The team emerged from the remains of the Specialized Lululemon squad that announced it was folding at the end of the 2014 season. Initally crowd funded the team were ultimately received backing from Cervelo and SRAM for the 2015 season. For various reasons the team in this incarnation is no more and the riders had to deal with the fact that they didn’t have a team for next year while there was still part of this year’s races to complete. It says a lot about this group of riders that they were still one of the winningest teams in the women’s peloton in 2015 and rounded off the season with the TTT world championship.

Keep reading for the rest of the VCSE winners here

Continue reading VCSE’s 2015 Cycling News Reader Poll

VCSE reviews – Roux A8 Carbon Drive

I think I first ‘promised’ a reviews section at the end of the first year of the blog (or at the beginning of the second) so it’s only taken me about a year and half to actually do something about it! Obviously in order to do them you need something to review in the first place and as I’m not yet in the bracket where I get asked to test anything it does make things kinda difficult*. Then there’s the whole thing about what to review; bikes, components, clothing? I guess my post on the Velothon could count as a review? Anyway I have a new thing and I haven’t seen it reviewed anywhere else so here goes..

First Impressions

Roux are a UK brand that offer a range of bikes from road through to cross with hybrids and tourers in between. The website launched in 2012 and a quick glance at the range shows how the designers have thought about what riders in this country want from their bike given a specific use. The touring bikes feature full mudguards and racks as standard for example and each model is priced at or below the all important Cycle to Work £1000 maximum.

Roux A8 Carbon Drive
Roux A8 Carbon Drive

Roux offer two bikes in the Belt range both featuring a Gates Carbon Drive belt in place of the chain found on most bikes. The advantages of a belt drive over a chain driven bike in theory are that the belt drive requires little or no maintenance or lubrication and should be long lived as the materials used in its construction are stretch free. Gates have extensive experience in this kind of drive system; a different version is used on Harley Davidson motorcycles.

Priced at £899.99 the Carbon Drive A8 is the top model in Roux’s two bike belt drive range. The 7005 series aluminium frame has pretty relaxed geometry mated to a alloy straight bladed fork. The Gates belt drives a Shimano Alfine 8 speed hub gear and stopping duties are provided by Shimano M445/7 hydraulic discs. The wheels are described as ‘triple chamber’ (I’m assuming triple wall) laced to Shimano centrelock hubs and Continental Contact rubber. There’s a full set of rack and mudguard mounts although some of these are compromised to all for the installation and removal of the belt drive. The frame has an understated matt finish but is slighty let down by some untidy welding. The finishing kit while unbranded looks decent enough in terms of quality and not out of place at this price point. If you’re wondering where your money has gone it’s reassuring that £899.99 has bought the best version of the Alfine hub gear and ever reliable Shimano disc brakes.


If you’re used to riding a road bike the Roux A8 has a very upright riding position out of the box. Flipping the stem would make things a bit more focused but this is probably not an issue for most of the riders this bike is aimed at. The Wellgo cage pedals supplied with the bike similarly will work for most but I changed them to A530 touring pedals to get some strength and stability. The DDK saddle is fine for the short journeys I have done so far but the seatpost can be adjusted for fore and aft movement only so you’re stuck a slightly nose up angle on the saddle.

Continue reading VCSE reviews – Roux A8 Carbon Drive

You must remember this…

Huret shifter side
Huret shifter side (Photo credit: Joe Grand of the Monument)

Rather like a brand that disappears from the high street cycling has it’s own reference points for forgotten teams, bikes and components. A staple of the racing bikes of 30-40 years ago would have been derailleurs made by the french company Huret.

This should be qualified by saying that the bikes to which Huret gears were fitted were probably pitched and priced at a level of today’s Shimano 2300 to perhaps Tiagra. High end racing kit would feature Campagnalo or similar, but it seems odd that a brand that was once as ubiquitous as Huret was ceased to exist so suddenly.

Or perhaps not. From the research VCSE has carried out, we have learned that Huret didn’t just ride off into the sunset accompanied by the sound of un-indexed gears shifting. In 1980 Huret was bought out by the German manufacturer Sachs who rebranded the business Sachs Huret. Sachs is perhaps better known as an automotive company and a portion of the company continues in this sector.

The bike component element that swallowed Huret 30 plus years ago was in turn consumed by SRAM in 1997. SRAM purchased the business from Mannesman better known as a telecoms company in Germany. SRAM’s motivation for the buy out was that Sachs had something SRAM wanted, the suggestion being that SRAM preferred to buy companies that already had well developed product lines.

All of this is somewhat dry. Yet it does seem fitting somehow that rather than just disappearing the Huret heritage lives on with a company that still produces the same components. There isn’t loads of information out there about the brand but arguably the best information can be found at (link below)

Recalling the 5 speed Huret that VCSE owned and later on the 531 framed 10 speed Huret Carlton VCSE wonders if there’s the chance of a Huret revival as an entry level groupset for SRAM. Sadly VCSE doesn’t have any photo’s of these old bikes and a trip to the garden shed years later revealed that the Carlton was no longer mothballed, perhaps donated to a budding Brad Wiggins or connoisseur of classic steel frames.

Does anyone else remember Huret? Did you have any Huret gear on your bike? Tell us by adding a comment below.

For the Huret pages click below