Riding the Look Cyclosportif in France

Lennard rode the Look Cyclosportive in Nevers, France, and saw Bernard Hinault pedaling a football!

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Bernard Hinault’s rather unusual chainrings
Bernard Hinault’s rather unusual chainrings

I rode the Look Cyclosportive in Nevers, France, on May 31 and saw Bernard Hinault pedaling a football.

Check out the football-shaped Rosset Ogival chainring on his bike. It has two mounting positions to slightly vary when the high spot comes over the top, and it mounts on a compact, 110mm BCD crank (in this case, a SRAM Red). Both chainrings have about the same amount of ovality (is that a word?). Obviously, even moreso than with Rotor or even Osymetric chainrings, the front derailleur has to sit way above the chainring when it’s at its low point in order to clear its highest point.

The man in the red jacket goggling at the Ogival rings is former Tour de France stage winner Yves Hézard, who for the last umpteen years (up until his recent retirement) directed Mavic’s team sponsorships and neutral service (he was the guy who orchestrated all of those yellow cars, trucks and motorcycles bringing wheels to riders in need during Paris-Roubaix, for instance). Now he lives in Marzy, just outside of Nevers, to where I was fortunate enough to be invited.

Hinault rode the half-length (80km) Look “KeO” event with his sons. His feet went around in circles quite smoothly, but you could get queasy if you stared at that chainring too long as it wobbled up and down like a punt that has landed and is tumbling toward the end zone. I never saw him shift out of the big ring or sprint, both of which would have been interesting tests of the setup…

Many-time world kilo, team sprint, and sprint champion on the track, Arnaud Tournant, also rode the 80km KeO loop, as did Hézard.

I rode the 160km (100-mile) “595” loop, and the major attraction there was Laurent Jalabert, who is still very fast (he placed 8th). “La Look” is a race/fun ride open to everyone – a cyclosportive is the French equivalent of a Gran Fondo in Italy. The 80km event was contested entirely in a rainstorm, while it stopped for the second half of the 160km event.

Hinault, Tournant and Jalabert played big roles in the development of the Look brand and its products. Hinault played the biggest role, as he was the first name rider to use Look pedals (in the 1985 Tour), thus starting the clipless revolution. Look’s original pedal patents were on display in the palace museum in Nevers the night before La Look, including the US patent, issued in August, 1987.

The bikes of all three riders from during their heydays were also in the palace. So were the first carbon bikes to be ridden in the Tour: the Look KG86 with carbon tubes and aluminum lugs ridden in 1986 by Hinault, Greg Lemond, and Andy Hampsten (under Hinault and Huffy labels). The KG96 bike upon which Jalabert won the Tour de France green jersey in 1992 was there, as was the KG281 upon which he won the polka-dot climber’s jersey in 2001 (whose light weight irritated Hein Verbruggen so much that the UCI instituted the minimum-bike-weight rule).

I, along with Jalabert, Tournant, Hinault and many others, was issued a GPS transmitter at the start. We could thus be tracked online in real time. When the technician who had given me my transmitter came to pick it up from me after the ride, he asked if everything was okay, since he had been wondering when I stopped for 15 minutes or so at 120km.

Wet roads during La Look
Wet roads during La Look

I assured him I was fine; I’d just made a mistake and had bonked. I had not checked the details of the ride and had assumed I’d be coming upon frequent feed zones and would have no need to bring food. But the guys in my group were eating constantly, and I began to get very concerned when we were well past 100km, and I still had seen no sign of a feed zone. I was barely hanging on the wheels when I finally saw a sign for the sole feed – at 120km (it was also the 40km feed for the 80km loop, as this was the point when the two loops reconnected). The guys in my group blew right past it in their eagerness to get to the finish, but they missed out; the food there was fantastic. Wedges of Brie cheese go down easy and stick to your ribs when you’re bonking. And dehydrated papaya spears are also to die for at such a time.

From a tech perspective, it was once again a good reminder that, before doing a long event, particularly in inclement weather with large packs of riders moving fast, it’s important to make sure everything is set up perfectly on your bike. In this case, the problem was with a directional chain.

I travel with a coupled bike and had stuck it back in its case after leaving the Giro to fly from Milan to Paris. I assembled it the afternoon before La Look, upon arriving by train in Nevers and had even squeezed in a quick ride before attending the evening’s festivities. Everything had seemed fine, but only a short ride to find where the start was as well as the palace museum was insufficient to discover the problem.

During the cyclosportive ride, however, I was constantly fiddling with my rear derailleur cable-tension adjuster to get it to shift better in one direction or the other and to run more silently. It was not until the day after that I discovered that I had my chain on backward. (D’oh!) It’s an asymmetrical Dura-Ace 7900 chain, and if you don’t orient it so the solid outer plates face outward, it does not shift well. I’ve made this mistake before and thought I had learned that lesson, but apparently not. I’m always so focused on getting my Wippermann ConneX master link installed right-side up (which is far worse than a flipped chain if you get it wrong), that apparently I overlooked the orientation of the chain itself.

With the chain on backwards, when you get the adjustment working properly to shift to larger cogs, for instance, it is sluggish shifting to smaller cogs, and vice versa. I think it’s not my imagination that it’s a bit worse with a SRAM Red cogset, rather than a Dura-Ace one, and I had put a SRAM Red 11-26 cogset on to go with the 34-50 compact I’d installed for the Monte Zoncolan and Plan de Corones during the Giro.

The big post-ride feed
The big post-ride feed

Another little tech tip I can pass on as someone who travels constantly by air (and train) with a bike: always clean your bike before packing it. If you don’t, it’s obvious that it will be a big mess when you get home. Even worse, though, is that you may not have much control over the conditions under which you’ll be assembling it at your next destination. Due to weather or darkness, you may not be able to assemble it outside, and you may find yourself in a place in full view of onlookers who might not appreciate a filthy bike being pulled out onto their carpet. Furthermore, knowing your bike is clean will lure you to get it out and ride it sooner; whereas, if you know it’s filthy, you may find yourself putting it off because you don’t want to deal with all of that schmutz.

Another tip I can offer is to remove your insoles or orthotics and dry your cycling shoes out with hotel hair dryer as soon after returning from a drenching ride as you can, especially if they are so dirty that you washed them off. By all means, if it is not sunny and warm, do this before packing them for a couple of days of travel. Moldy cycling shoes are a real turn-off, especially if where you next land is rainy as well, thus exacerbating the condition.

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