Rapha launches new eyewear

I am up and down when it comes to Rapha I have to say.

I have a 2013 Team Sky jersey my kids bought me for Fathers Day which I love but aside from that their products have left me a bit meh.

However this could be able to change with the launch of their new eyewear range (and regular Fendrien readers will know I like a pair of cycling specs).

All of the current trend bases are covered.

We have a large full framed set (a la 100% speedcraft or Oakley Jawbreakers).

We have a no framed version (Covering the Oakley Ev Zero).

An off bike pair (think Oakley Frogskins or 100% speedcoupe)

And a ‘Sutro’esque pair with a drilled lens and top frame.

They are all utterly stunning and if Rapha want to send me some to review I will happily break the rule about me paying for all products I review !

See the range by clicking here.

The company was supplying AquaBlue when they went bust mid season and haven’t been seen on pro faces since, so it will be interesting to see if they pay to have this range in a teams kit for next season.

Let’s wait and see.

Guest beer list – Bob Mc Stuff

Following on from DrHeadgear’s post – all of those beers are excellent of course, but here are some more which are definitely worth trying:
I’ve suggested the first two because they are particularly famous and can be said to epitomise their respective styles. The others are just my favourites!

Saison
Saison Dupont – 6.5%
From the French speaking part of Belgium, Brasserie Dupont makes the acclaimed Saison Dupont which is generally considered to be the archetype for the style. A Saison is a northern French and Belgian farmhouse ale that has a characteristic farmyard aroma (sometimes described as “funk” or a “funky” aroma)
Saisons are quite popular with craft breweries in the UK and US, so they are commonly found in bottle shops and beer bars – it makes sense to try the “OG Saison” so that you can appreciate where these beers are coming from. It’s very common for saisons to be combined with fruit, for example Arbor brewery in Bristol makes a clementine saison which they also contract brew for M&S, so it is quite readily available. Kernel in London also make a Biere De Saison Apricot, and they are available in most good bottle shops. Brasserie Dieu du Ciel! (literally, “good Lord!”) from Montreal also make some really top quality saisons which stick in my memory.

Trappist
Orval – 6.2%
Orval is a Trappist brewery but one with a difference: their signature beer is fermented with Brettanomyces. Most ales are fermented solely with Saccharomyces Cerevisae (and lagers with Saccharomyces Carlsbergensis), although there are a huge number of sub-strains and types under that heading, created by hundreds of years of breeding and brewing all over the world. However, there are other types of yeast! Brettanomyces bruxellensis is often considered an off flavour, especially in wine, and once it gets into a brewery it can be hard to eradicate. It’s often found on the skin of fruit, along with other wild yeasts, so it is a common flavour in natural wine (which is massively trendy right now!).
Brett, as it’s often known by brewers and beer fans, results in a very highly attenuated beer as the yeast is able to digest much more complex carbohydrates than its cousin. This means that the beer tends to be drier and with a relatively higher alcohol content compared to a comparable source beer fermented solely with traditional ale yeast. In terms of flavour, it’s a bit like Saison yeast on steroids: lots of farmhouse, horsey, barnyard funk and with a distinctive bite of bitterness which differs from that of the hops. It has a slight edge of sourness and is often present in sour beers, although it’s not strictly a sour yeast (sour beer are usually created either by a process known as kettle souring or by infection with lactobacillus, a type of bacteria).
Be warned: brett can continue chewing through the residual carbs even after bottling, so brett beers can be extremely lively when opened, with a long lasting, growing, light and frothy head. It is a good idea to chill them right down before opening (cold water absorbs more CO2 which will make the beer calmer). It’s also a good idea not to open them over soft furnishings, especially if they have been in the bottle for a long time.

Kriek
3 Fonteinen Oude Krieke – 6%
Since DrHeadgear went for the Cantillon, I will choose the 3 Fonteinen Oude Kriek! For me, 3 Fonteinen make slightly more innovative beer, although the Kriek is obviously very traditional. I’ve attended a meet the brewer event with their head brewer and they make some really interesting beers. The standard version is relatively readily available and not too expensive (and delicious), but if you can get hold of it (and have deep pockets), the Schaarbeekse Kriek is really excellent. Most Krieks these days are made with sour cherries imported from Turkey, but the Schaarbeekse is made with the traditional wild cherries from around Brussels, which are very hard to buy today and this makes it very expensive. This is a really fantastic Kriek with loads of dark cherry and candied cherry flavour, and great funk from the wild yeasts (Kriek is fermented entirely with wild yeast). It’s a massively well reviewed beer and if you try it, ideally after sampling a few other Krieks, you’ll see why.

Oud Bruin/Flanders Red
Duchesse de Bourgogne – 6.2%
I’m going to nominate the Duchesse de Bourgogne for this. I know the Rodenbach is a good choice, but for me the Duchesse is my pick. Possibly for nostalgia purposes. They’re both almost identically reviewed on Untappd, and my review is the same for both too. Again, either this or the Rodenbach are pretty easily available at bottle shops, and they are pretty much the definition beers for the style, so they make a great reference beer if you are just thinking about other Belgian styles. Another one which is harder to come by (in the UK) but better reviewed is the Cuvée des Jacobins Rouge by Brouwerij Omer Vander Ghinste.
There are lots of other good Flanders Reds available, although they’re less common than saisons. Burning Sky in Sussex make a good one (called simply, Flanders Red).

Lambic
Abrighost (Bokke) – 6%
Number 5 was very hard to choose. Belgian beer is dominated by traditional names who have been making beer for hundreds of years, so I wanted to choose a more modern brewery. Bokke – formerly known as Bokkeryder – are the most hipster and hyped lambic blender in the world, possibly even brewery. When I went to Copenhagen Beer Celebration in 2017 there were queues around the venue just to get a taste of their beer. They only started in 2013 but in that time they’ve managed to become extremely popular in sour beer circles.
Unfortunately none of the beers I have had from them are still in production, they tend to make everything only once. The Abrighost is a blend of the Fantôme saison (hence “ghost” in the name), blended with two of their own lambics and aged on two varieties of apricots. Which is perfect since Fantôme, founded 1988, are also very on trend and very good and were my other choice for modern-but-hyped-but-good Belgian brewery… (I have had the Fantôme saison multiple times – and it is actually possible to buy beers from Fantôme in the UK). Your best chance of getting anything from Bokke is at a beer festival or in Belgium close to where it is made (Leuven has 2 bars carrying their beer). There are no bars carrying Bokke in the UK, sadly!

I thought this would provide some flavour of some of the weirder stuff that is around if you look, and because Dr Headgear covered all the most obvious bases! You will be able to pick up some beers by Fantôme if you look for them, specialist bottle shops will carry them (for example, Beermoth in Manchester are my personal favourite – they are one of the few UK distributors for limited release 3 Fonteinen beers too). In my opinion it is always worth trying any unusual or less common beer from any brewery like this if you find them on sale, but it is worth developing a good taste for the “reference” beers described above and in the previous post because then you can get a feel for the inspiration behind the beers, where the brewer is coming from, and what the basics of the style are.

Lockdown sees strange times for sponsors

The procycling model is broken… I hear that statement on podcasts and read it in articles continually.

But is it?

The fact that our sports has carried on for over a century, most of that with sponsored trade teams, and continued to provide value and exposure for sponsors whilst remaining free to fans is something that should be admired.

In these times, I am not sure I even know what a “stable funding model” is. But not many teams and organisations in any sort of sport will have it. ,

Budgets are clearly going to be cut and sponsors that remain will have their finance departments casting an ever more critical eye over that key “return on investment” calculation to make sure that for every £1 spent, more than that can be attributed to incoming revenues.

There are a couple of teams at cyclings World Tour level with changes in the offing.

Mitchelton-Scott have been looking for a main sponsor for quite some time and have recently announced a link up with Manuela Fundacion. Its not been without drama and controversy with both the new sponsors and existing CEO claiming they are the teams owners.

But this does show that in Europe there is still a desire to back the sport.

CCC have an altogether more pressing situation with their sponsor being in the retail sector and being hit hard by the lockdown. They are now getting out of their deal a year early leaving the team with a big gap to fill.

There are hopeful noises coming out of the CCC Camp with a number of names linked and their main man confident something will be announced ahead of the Tour de France. Let’s hope so as I still want to see a Van Avermaet/Trentin classics combination in full effect.

There could be more changes ahead or some tweaks to jersey’s as the pandemic carries on. In the meantime we are edging nearer actually seeing some of the 2020 teams in action and we must hang on to that positive in these wretched times.

Stay safe.

Beers of Belgium CC

Roman brewery Tour 2018

https://www.roman.be/en/oldest-family-brewery-belgium

On a rare child free weekend in the short period between the road season and ‘cross starting, the Wife and I took a drive from Lincolnshire to the heart of Oudenaarde for a weekend of walking the hellingen and some food and beer testing.

We stayed at the beautiful Beans and Dreams coffee house doing all of the touristy stuff like eating steak and frites in the town square and working our way through some of the beers in the tiny little bar near the Ronde Van Vlanderen museum.

The first full day saw us take the steep little road out of town towards the Roman Brewery.

We had been booked on a tour which ironically saw us joined by one of the cycling clubs of Antwerp who wanted to ask me loads of questions about whether Chris Froome was asthmatic or not…

The tour guide took us to one side to explain politely that the tour was predominantly going to be in Dutch/Flemish but that he would try and keep us up to speed. He seemed impressed that a British couple were so keen to take the tour.

The buildings themselves were really old and impressive. You see this brewery regularly on TV footage of all the big classics in this part of the world and the giant stills were so well polished and the barrels stacked so neatly that you knew this was a class operation.

After the tour there was a tasting which I thought would be a couple of small glasses to try but this was 15 minute free bar… My wife handed me the car keys before trying a couple of tripels and a nice ruby.

Thankfully the pricing of the shop was such that we could fill the boot of the car (using Antwerp cycling club officials as extra pairs of hands) before heading back into town.

One of us grumpily and the other one groggily.

I will let you decide who was who.

What I will say is that everyone who is a lover of Belgian beers should make the time to take a tour. People are so proud of what they produce and so passionate about it. That comes across in everything they do and say.

The theatre in the presentation of the drinks, even in a free tasting show care for the drinks, it was magical.

Once this is over and we are free to move again, who’s up for a trip?

Why Bardet transfer could be the biggest this winter…

There are two other contracts that have been signed which influences the important of where Romain Bardet ends up in 2021 and beyond.

Firstly there is the commitment of Flemish classics start Oliver Naesen to stay with the Alpine based Ag2r team. It shows their faith in him to deliver a monument (despite a number of near misses including one with a spectators coat) and with some of the other names on that teams retained list there seems to be a bit more emphasis on the all round aspects of cycling than just whether Bardet can even win the Tour de France.

On the other side of the French team divide is Groupama/FDJ and their extension of Thibaut Pinot’s contract.

There is an argument to say that he is even more of a flaky GC contender than Bardet having succumbed to injury more times than Bardet has suffered stage fright. But his team see enough in him to make sure he is tied to a deal.

So with his main French rival under contract and settled in his environment and the main classics star on his own team already signed up (along with a number of other young French talents) does this leave Romain in the wilderness?

Well, he is 29 so if its going to happen in Le Tour he doesn’t have long left. However he doesn’t seem able to address that weakness in time trials and seemed happier to go to the Giro (as Pinot had done in previous years) to get away from the pressure of being one of the home country’s hopes to end their yellow jersey drought.

He clearly feels like a change may benefit him and Sunweb who were caught short (hahah) by Tom Dumoulin’s departure could see him as a good bet for a stage win and mountains jersey at least. After their rudderless performance in the Tour last year it would give them someone to get behind easing the pressure on Michael Matthews on the earlier flatter stages.

I do hope that wherever he ends up we see that sense of freedom back in his riding because when he attacks both uphill and down (remember that thrilling descent from the Dauphine a few years back?) he is box office to watch.