Criterium Corner with Euro Freddie


This month I thought I would try and not talk about Campagnolo - except, of course, right here. While perusing the aisles of this year’s bicycle trade show in Colonge, I couldn’t help but notice  a young French woman in the MAVIC booth named Mimi. I strolled over to chat and we hit it off beautifully. We talked about the glory days, when Greg LeMond rode MAVIC equipment in his 1989 Tour win, and I asked her, “What ever happened to Zap?” For those readers new to high-quality, European bike parts, MAVIC’s 800 line (aka Zap) was their push button, electronic shifting, rear derailleur. I told her that in the right hands you could make its little rubber shifting bellows, oscillate rapidly enough to emit a sound like a Parisian accordion. She blushed, and after composing herself she said, “It suffered contamination woes from environmental elements”, at which point I blushed.

So it’s winter over here on the Continent. You know you’ve got to ride, so how do you cope with those contaminating elements? When the going gets tough, you look to the tough to get going. Take a tip from Irish classics star, Sean Kelly. Sean showed me this little trick on a training ride and claimed it was responsible for his victory in that foulest of races, the Paris Roubaix. Sean always seems to carry too much food while racing, especially bananas. But herein lies his secret. Sean found that the viscosity and lubricity qualities of the fruit are ideal for roller chain application. By cannibalizing a length of handlebar tape and lashing the banana against his down tube (with the pealed end resting on the chainrings), it not only scrapes off chain grime, but lubes and deposits a thin potassium film, thereby further protecting this vulnerable component from the harsh elements.

There has been much hullabaloo about using quick-release levers as makeshift clincher tire levers lately. But since 95% of European pros ride tubulars, this is useless information. Better to follow in Claudio Chiappucci practice. He showed me this technique in the Dolomite Mountains, when an ice storm hit us unexpectedly. Due to rear wheel spray, his shorts froze to his backside. Off came his quick-release lever and, by starting at the navel and working around towards the back, he was able to remove his skin shorts without removing too much skin.

Take care, its winter out there... And could I just mention that the quick-release lever was invented in such inclement weather by none other than Tullio Campagnolo. “Sh-Sh-Sh-Sean, keep those Irish coffees ca-ca-ca-coming.”  -Euro Freddie.

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