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  • 27.12.14

    Memories of 2014 from Rouleur assistant editor Andy McGrath

    Personal reflections on 2014 from assistant editor Andy McGrath

    Words
    Andy McGrath
    Photographs
    Offside-LeEquipe

The last 12 months have brought momentous occasions, thrilling racing, and tragedy to professional cycling; a sport steeped in history and staged often in dramatic surroundings. Assistant editor, Andy McGrath, shares five memories from 2014.

1) Remembering Kristof Goddaert, Al Bustan, Tour of Oman, February 19

It was the morning after the death of Belgian IAM Cycling rider Kristof Goddaert’s death, who had been killed in a training accident.

The press pack were determined to observe the expected minute’s silence on the line with the bunch, but usual protocol was for the media bus to leave ten minutes before the race start.

Peloton, cyling through, city, Tour of Oman, 2014Cycling's family gathered beneath the blue skies of Oman to remember IAM Cycling's Kristof Goddaert. The 27-year-old Belgian died in a training accident in February. pic: Offside/L'Equipe

Confusion ensued. We agreed that we had to be there and legged it to arrive just in time. It was right that the whole family of cycling stood together, heads bowed, to remember Goddaert.

IAM Cycling led the line, tears on some of their faces, black armbands adorning their sleeves. It was so sad and humbling.

2) Meeting the old miners of Arenberg, April 11

The Arenberg mine, 500 metres from the beginning of the iconic Paris-Roubaix sector, is open for occasional tours, led by its former miners.

That was impressive enough, going up the mine pithead, from which you can see the road disappear into the Arenberg forest.

Arenberg mines, industrial brick building, FranceSome of the men who had worked in the mines of Arenberg shared colourful and often chastening stories

Meeting these men, many of whom worked there from the ages of 15 to 55, hearing both colourful and chastening stories of a bygone time, was unforgettable.

3) York Racecourse, Tour de France stage two, July 5

As the Tour started in York, my alma mater, I went for a pancake breakfast at the house of some old university friends I hadn’t seen in ages, who live in a sleepy mews five minutes from the start.

York racecourse grandstand, huge crowds, Tour de France 2014The enormity of the Tour's visit to Yorkshire could be seen in the packed grandstands of York Racecourse at the start of stage two

Maybe it was the clash of two worlds. Once I got to York Racecourse, the start location, it was just people as far as I could see: in the stands, on the side of the road, smiling and waving.

An immediate smile hit my face. That was when the enormity of the Tour in Yorkshire hit home, and it was a lovely morning on a personal level too.

4) Colle delle Finestre, August 6

Having spent days in the Alps photographing beautiful mountains around Montevergine, we decided to drive back over the Finestre to lensman Paolo Ciaberta’s native Turin.

Colle de Finestre fort, mountainous vistaThe fort at the top of the Colle de Finestre was evocative

What a wonderful, wicked climb, with stunning views over pastures. I climbed inside the fort at the top to look around too. Perhaps some of the graffiti in there has been there since it was occupied during World War Two.

I love that it still felt like one of the world’s wild places: on the slow, singletrack gravel descent, not a single car passed us.

5) Brändle, Dowsett and Stewart break away Tour of Britain, stage six, September 12

Their three-man breakaway was a joyous underdog moment. I felt (very unprofessionally) like punching the air as I watched the final kilometres on TV. You just don’t see that kind of thing in professional cycling anymore, let alone in British racing.

Racing cyclists, 3 man breakaway, at speed, Tour of Britain 2014, Matthias Brandle, Alex Dowsett, Tom StewartMatthias Brandle, Alex Dowsett, and Tom Stewart provided a moment of joy for supporters of the underdog. pic: Offside/L'Equipe

It probably helps that Dowsett, who took the race lead that day, is both credible and a thoroughly decent bloke: for instance, he wasn’t refusing a single autograph when I saw him at the race start in Liverpool. A natural ambassador for the sport, he totally gets it.

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