The moustached VC Roca Corba rider (ex-pat Essex now Pyrenean mountain man) on his first bike shop job working for some very special shiny parts
All the desk draws was stuffed with Readers Wives, Biguns and Rustler. Filling all drawers apart from the top left… That drawer had the Campagnolo Nuovo Groupset in it.
I was 15 and my Saturday job was in the local bike shop and the groupset was my pay.
The shop patron and the his shop were of the old school. In that school the sport was looked after by people that loved riding. Racing was their life. Now it's about corporations, numbers… minimal gains, the quest for Gold via power accountancy and banality. A far cry from the emotive times before.
In Cambridgeshire you are in the flat lands. It is the natural habitat of the time trialist. The ‘Patron’ had put a club together. A roadie club. The ‘king of the mountains’ polka dot jersey was the club kit. There was no faux sponsors on the kit, it was pure, and simply a club. The ‘Patron’ put on local events. In the summer Patron held evening handicaps. One of the most popular events in the region.
Patron did all this with a huge tombstone smile that emitted the smell of Nescafe. Never have I seen someone as happy on a bicycle as that man. The Patron was the soul of road racing in the area.
When Patron went out on ‘important’ errands he would leave me in the shop to look after the bikes and the customers. Naturally I would put the "Back in 10 mins" sign in the window and rush upstairs to feast my eyes on the Campagnolo.
Back then porn was a hard thing to come across (arf arf). Porn as a young teenager was normally found on a training ride. Finding a porno mag was a rare and welcome break to a boring solitary ride of ‘getting the miles in’. But in this shop, in the depressing upstairs stock room of shopping bikes, steel cranks and the smell of 26 inch tyres was a desk of delight. Porn on tap and Campagnolo Record Gruppo that was going to be mine.
Infrequent customers could mess with my Campagnolo polishing. On a bad day it was Sid Barrat wanting his cotter pins changed – on a good day Tony Gouland.
Tony Gouland was larger than life. I remembered him from when I was a little boy at the Skol 6 Day in London. He looked like The Continent. He had a deep tan, like professional bike racers used to have. He had big white teeth and the whiff of Sixtus embrocation about him. Gouland had all this because he brushed with The Gods in Belgium, France and Spain.
England at this time was a grim place to be a roadie. Britain was full of time trialists getting up a 4am to go down the A14 on a hideous English bike, complaining about how they weren’t given enough space by the cars that were on their way to Felixstowe port. They would ride strange bicycles with strange kit.
Tony Gouland represented continental glamour. He remind me of my little boy years in the 1970’s, at the 6 days track races, The Ronde, TdF and Worlds.
Ã¢â‚¬â€¹Campagnolo represented all this. The Campagnolo Record Gruppo was key to me escaping the dank dark world of Britain and British time trialling. It was shiny, exotic and glam.
I did eventually get the whole groupset. I put it on a white Scapin SL imported by Tony Gouland. I had it a few months before a crash on the finish line for second at the Great Yarmouth Crit ended the frame and most of the kit.
Insurance coughed up and I got myself a nice Vitus Duralinox (Sean Kelly style) with full Shimano Dura Ace! The future was indexed and anodised. Campagnolo was stuck back in the old days along with my childhood and the time trialists.