Under the radar and not over the top…

It’s not often I open an article with the headline coming from a lyric created by 1990’s hardcore techno act Scooter, but these are different times.

Cycling is back however with racing over the weekend in Italy with Strade Bianche and today in Lombardy.

Being a fan of Belgian riders, especially those with a cyclo cross slant, you could be forgiven for not getting too far past the performance of Wout Van Aert at the weekend.

He proved once and for all that there is more to converts from the mud and dirt than Mathieu Van der Poel and Zednek Stybar.

His dominant performance in dispatching a group of known grand tour and classics stars was a win for all ages. It was all the better for us having had such a wait to see it.

But down the results list and in the breakaway today is the name of a rider who is going under the radar but is impressing.

The next cab of the rank was likely to be Tim Merlier who was starting his transition to the road and was present in the opening weekend of Flemish classics back in February. But for me Quinten Hermans could be the better bet.

He was up there without being super impressive on the rough stuff in the winter, but has settled in with Wanty/Circus since the restart. He is clearly able to get in a move and hang in until the latter stages of big races.

I will be keeping an eye on him as I think a breakthrough win could be coming soon.

23/7/2020 – Beers of Belgium CC update

There is always lots going on behind the scenes here at Beers of Belgium CC and I am looking forward to getting the jersey on and getting out there promoting this page of the Fendrien website.

This will hopefully coincide with the return of bike racing and we will be able to recreate that moment when a beer is sipped in front of the TV after a strenuous training ride where you have pretended to be Greg Van Avermaet.

So keep an eye out for the kit delivery and our team jersey out there on the roads.

Garmin connect is down..!

We are now entering the 8th hour of Garmin Connect being down and my lunch time recovery ride remains stranded somewhere between handlebar unit, Connect and Strava.

All of this makes me hark back to the days when I used a stopwatch and calculated the distance I’d ridden from an OS map before filling in a log.

I am sure Rapha will still sell them.

Probably covered in Egyptian goose feather and retailing at £79.53.

Anyway I found them recently when my parents moved home and I was in their attic. There was me thinking I was faster in 1991 because I had a wiry moustache and Laurent Fignon pony tail, turns out it was the fact I was riding double the mileage per week…

Anyway, I am sure Garmin will be back soon and the art form of recording miles and checking log books over years and years will be consigned back to the attic as things happen over wifi and bluetooth.

It’s been nice to reminisce for a day though.

Back at the club 10

I think like most of the planet emerging from lockdown, there was an element of nervousness in me as I threw a Fendrien jacket over my club skinsuit and fixed the lights to my time trial bike before heading off to the start of the race last Wednesday.

I didn’t know how I would feel or what my performance was like. Things that help you understand performance, such as power meters had been sold last summer to keep things ticking over at home so this was a real step into the dark for me.

The first drama was some light drizzle as I crossed the A16 and got on the country lanes, that was followed by the East Coast Mainline stopping me for two trains at the crossing. This was stuff that in previous years would have phased me, it would have affected my concentration and added to the nerves of bike racing.

This year though, it just feels so nice to be out there that I took it all in my stride as part of the experience. It’s like lock down has actually given us more time to do things and think about what’s going on.

I collected my number, socially distanced of course, and fixed it to my new number belt. Yes I know I look like a triathlete, but skin suits aren’t cheap so any avoidance of pin damage is fine by me!

I stashed my jacket and bottle in the undergrowth near the car park and started to get my act together as other riders were arriving.

My start time was nice and early so I was able to do my 10 miles (25:15) and get back to the finish before layering up and riding home.

This reminded me of when my kids were first born and I did little in the way of training. With that in mind I rode the St Ives (Cambs) CC 10s mid week as where I lived meant I could easily ride out to the event and back for extra miles, usually it was a 50km evening. Those tired rides home with my lights twinkling and the fens looking splendid were some of the best I can remember.

The same applied here and as I waited for another 2 trains at the crossing going home I reflected on a successful evening for the club and enjoyed those last 8km home without sprinting for village signs or eyeballing the heart rate numbers on my computer.

And if a weekly stress relieving ride home each Wednesday is as good as my truncated cycling season gets this year, that will do just fine.

I would like to go a bit faster in the race though!

2015 Tour memories

Unable to sleep I spent the early hours of day light re-watching stage 20 of the 2015 Tour de France on Eurosport.

Not only were Sean Kelly and Carlton Kirby in brilliant form, the race was exciting and the sun was beating down on the peloton as they headed towards the foot of Alp D’Huez.

But this was a Tour with an undertone. There was a feeling of real hatred towards Chris Froome in the yellow jersey. At times as well it spilled over from feelings into actions which is wholly unacceptable, regardless of what nationality you are and what teams or riders you are aligned with.

This was a Tour, and in the Covid age of masks preventing saliva transfer this seems ridiculous, that Froome found himself spat on regularly as he rode towards Paris.

In fact within the last 4km of the Alp on this stage you saw a clearly drunk man in a free gift polka do jersey lurch into the road to empty his sinuses on the passing yellow jersey.

Despite being in a real battle with Nairo Quintana to keep the race lead, Froome still had time to look back over his left shoulder and clock a look at the perpetrator.

Cycling is the most wonderful, beautiful and positive experience. But as with everything there are those who can’t behave and who let themselves down. This will be important to remember going forward as any indiscretions like that in this autumns condensed calendar will see bad publicity and possibly racing cancelled.

We don’t want that.

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.