2022 Concourse de Machines Part Two: The Race and The Show

Saying we woke up would imply sleep, which is a luxury the night before the Concours de Machines race hadn’t afforded us, owing to thick black clouds of mosquitoes that infested our van. I lit a church of citronella candles and closed all the doors and windows, while Josh rolled himself up in a sheet and slept outside on a decrepit shezlongé that sat outside the factory. Mosquitos spent the night screaming and raging in our ears while doing their best to tear us limb from limb. At 4 am they sat lining the window sills, fat and bloated, drunk on our blood.

I killed a dozen of them with an old sock in one limp sleep-deprived swipe as a tokenistic act of vengeance, knowing they’d be saving their strength for another assault the next evening. I stood in Andreas’ elegant la fraise workshop contorting my body to scratch bites between nerve endings on my back, craving coffee as the pilotes clip clopped in on road shoes. For many of them, road shoes were a terrible choice. The 204km route billed as a road with some cobbles and gravel somehow encompassed 1466m of short sharp climbs in an oppressively pancake-flat landscape, as well as some muddy singletrack. The singletrack must have caught teams rolling on 28c slick tyres off guard, and would prove catastrophic for some.

This is the second of two reports from the 2022 Concours de Machines. Be sure to check here for the first installment!

I was glad to see Fanny Del Ray of Stolen Garage show up first. I’d had a tip the previous day: “She’s only been racing for a couple of years but she has amazing energy, she’ll definitely finish in the top three.”

I asked Fanny if she was going to win, and she told me that she might, so I asked her if she’d take an air tag with her, so that we could track her progress, and she agreed. Having heard about the single track, to spread the risk, I also gave Swanee of Pariah, who I knew was good at technical riding, an airpod that I could use to track her. Within 30 minutes all of the racers had arrived, and sat on their machines at an invisible start line amongst the 40 or so riders that would ride the route for fun after the race had started.

The Race

After some kind of announcement I couldn’t decode with my very limited French, the pilotes burst through the factory gates and into the brooding darkness of the morning, followed first by the riders, and then by Josh and I in our yellow bus. Our Airtags were completely useless, and we spent the next two hours playing cat and mouse with the riders who quickly spread out over the first flat road sections, to a thin, disparate line seemingly traveling in every which direction spreading into obscurity into the vast and featureless country. After an hour we glimpsed Fanny crossing our path as we drove and pulled over to see who was behind her, but after ten minutes we didn’t see any other riders.

Fanny of Stolen Garage had a clear lead off the bat on the flat roads, which made sense, as she was one of very few riding an out and out road bike. Going into the climbs and singletrack, it could have been anyone’s race. Having seen some mobile phone images of the sloppy and abrasive course that morning, there was almost certainly going to be an amount of running and climbing through the woods with a useless road bike in tow. Going into the muck, Fanny (Stolen), Jeanne (Victoire), Amelie (Soum) and Adelaide (Jolie Rouge) looked like they’d formed a disjointed breakaway, with Sophie (Cyfac) and Swanee (Pariah) close behind. We wouldn’t see Sophie, or any of the riders that fell behind the breakaway again until the finish.

For years, Speedplay have offered the smallest, lightest pedal available to road cyclists, which makes a lot of sense in a contest where the bikes are scored according to lightness. It’s the bikes that get weighed, not the rider, so no one cares that they also have the biggest heaviest and most complex cleats. Cyfac, on the advice of the weather forecast that predicted heavy rain and thunderstorms, changed Sophie’s tyres at the last minute from slicks to something more capable in the mud. There was a buzz about the idea of storms, was it even a Sunday in hell without mud to test the riders over the pavé? Mud was ultimately the downfall of potentially the most cobble capable bike of the contest, which following the rules as I understood them, should have scratched.

Once Sophie hit the boggy singletrack, not only were the new tyres not up to the challenge, (there were sections every rider had to walk) but the big heavy complex Speedplay cleats filled with mud, and became tricky to clip into. More critically they also became impossible to clip out of, causing Sophie to fall off every time she tried to unclip. Wet, muddy and bruised Sophie was stuck walking, as it was impossible to grip the round shiny little pedals over technical terrain with the midsole of carbon shoes. While not strictly the fault of the frame builder, CDM is a contest for constructeurs, where pedal choice sits quite squarely within that remit. While singletrack wasn’t in the billing for terrain it’s a challenge that every other rider’s heavier pedals were able to overcome.

We caught up with the majority of riders on a farm track littered with rocks and broken chunks of red bricks which I clumsily rode on 47c WTB horizons, sliding around, wondering how the pilotes would fare on actual road tyres. I planted myself behind a church. I must have missed Fanny ,who, in spite of the mud and her straight up road bike, still held a considerable lead because the first rider I saw was Amelie (Soum). Fresh-faced and smiling, she somehow sailed over the tricky track as if her skinny tyres weren’t even touching the ground, showing how a professional cyclist deals with bumps in the road. One by one a mixed bag of riders and racers passed me. The mist was clearing but heavy clouds compressed the hot wet potato field air down into a sweaty soup for the pilotes straining lungs. Swanee (Pariah) must have been at least 40 minutes behind the elusive Fanny as the hot wet air finally cracked the sky and gave way to the forked lightning and torrential rain we’d all anticipated.

I raced back to the van where we made a b-line, which would have been fine in a 4 wheel drive with a body lift, to the famous Arundell cobbles for the main event. It was a 40 minute drive and from what we could deduce from our Airtag, which read “last seen 50 minutes ago” and reports from the Stolen team (who’d gone back to bed and overslept after the start, but somehow since caught up with Fanny) we were early for the first time. Not knowing if we’d have to wait for minutes or hours, we set up for a luxury picnic of local terrine, pickles, bread and cheeses which the cheesemonger described to us in broken English as being made from “ghost milk”. The storms gave way to brilliant sunshine that shone exactly 90 degrees downward, baking the mud’s surface to a satisfying crunch. Hundreds of minuscule frogs, somehow smaller than tadpoles, scrabbled for shade in the woods either side of the cobbles.

I’d never seen the cobbles in person before, and to be honest they weren’t what I expected. Nestled between smooth roads and neat cycle lanes a dead straight, almost flat, presumably Roman row of cobbles cuts a section of woods in two. Surprisingly, next to the cobbles is a smooth gritted path, which is where all the fans stand in the Paris Roubaix TV coverage, so you never actually see it. Why don’t they just ride on that bit? I quizzed Josh as if he were somehow an authority on the CDM from his two days of creeping around pointing a microphone at things. After 40 minutes or so of sitting playing backgammon, taking turns to squint at the horizon between turns, I remembered I had an old Canon in the van with a 300mm lens, which we took turns using as a telescope, waiting to see the first pilote at the other end of the cobbled mile.

We stood and sat in excitement, waiting. Hazy mirage at the other end obscured some strange little moving things that looked like cyclists but loitered moving side to side for a good 20 minutes. Finally growing upwards out of the cobbles through the shimmering heat, I saw Fanny still in the lead, reflected on the Canon’s Fresnel lens. As she approached I could see she was hot, wet, muddy and smiling with smears of dried blood on her face and legs. There was another rider at her heels that I hadn’t seen before, who turned out to be an official from the competition who’d been charged with the task of riding the cobbled section with each rider to make sure that they were riding on the cobbles rather than the smooth parallel path the whole way, as a requirement of the jury.

As the first rider to reach the end of the cobbled section Fanny encountered a closed gate, having passed me, she turned to avoid the gate and somehow lost control, tumbling into the hard path to the side. As Josh scooped her up and helped her back onto her bike, Jeanne of Victoire came rumbling up the cobbes behind me and the two rode off together. They were followed in short order by Amelie of Soum, still grinning ear to ear, and Adelaide of Jolie Rouge some minutes later.

We stuck around after Fanny passed to try and get low and see how the bikes were flexing to cope with the cobbles, by capturing 240 fps videos which we replayed over and over again. Unfortunately we couldn’t stay long enough for Viva De Moustier of Auguste and the riders following her as they were now over 2 full hours behind Stolen Garage’s pilote. It was a shame, because I’d loved to have seen how Victoire’s bobber fork actually worked on cobbles, but we were keen to get back to Stab velodrome for the finish before the first riders. It must have been plane sailing after the pavé because by the time we’d driven to the velodrome, the first two, Fanny of Stolen and Jeane of Victoire (5 minutes later) had already completed their victory lap of the velodrome and showered. We caught Amelie of Soum who came in third, 50 minutes after the winner. We tried to piece together stories from the road from fragments of broken French and English.

“Are you ok?” I asked Fanny, having seen her rolling around in pain on the floor hours earlier.

“I’m good. Happy for us, and for me. It was a big shit show, the race. It was the hardest race! I have been racing for 2 years and this was the hardest. I fell off 5 times, but the biggest time was with you [on the cobbles]. I have a big bruise on my side and my back. Maybe I thought it would be a lot on road, but no it was more a woods and gravel race. I have more of a road bike, so it was very complicated. But it’s okay, I learn and I am the winner. My hands were very cramp after the cobbles. I feel very good on this bike, I think it’s my best. I had a bike fit with Specialized, and then Stolen adapted it. It’s better on this bike.”

I’m not sure how aware Fanny was about how on the nose of the entire raison d’etre of the contest her winning statement was; the contest having been designed entirely to show the public how bicycles, hand made by constructeurs, could keep up with or even surpass mass produced bikes made by big companies.

I asked Jeanne of Victoire how the course was, knowing she’d be riding atlas mountains on the same bike soon.

“The course was good – it was very intense, I tried to ride very fast to be the leader, and it was intense. Never stopping, just to fill water in the bottles, all the food on the bike. Just stop to fill the bottles. 15 minute of stop for the whole day – with 1 toilet stop.”

How was the bike?

“Yes, very impressive on the cobbles, the size of the tyre was good. I think it’s the size of the tyre, it wasn’t 700, it was a gravel tyre. The choice overall was perhaps not the best. I only fell once, on the asphalt. Fanny is very strong. She was always ahead. On the cobbles I was faster but on the asphalt she was faster, and there was more asphalt. I think I will ride this bike in the atlas mountain race. But I’m not sure, Some people say you want an MTB with suspension. The integrated lights in the bike are very good and a nice detail.”

Only falling once was a huge achievement based on a measured average of 3 times per rider which went to show how tricky the course actually was. Even Amelie from Soum, an experienced rider on a bike she’d been riding for a while, fell off.

“I have ridden this bike since January and the fork since May, so I knew that was okay for me and the bike was good.”

Is the suspension good?

“Yes it is, but with the cobbles it is difficult, I rode too slowly and it was difficult.”

How are your hands?

“Oh okay. I put a gel under my palm, so my hands are not sore. The single track sections were okay, but the rim brakes got filled with mud. But after that section it was okay. I fell five or six times, one time my cleats got stuck and I could not unclip.”

Not all of the riders made it, Virginie Guarain of Laryx scratched because the terrain was just too challenging, although she returned showered and smiling to the finish because she “smelled the beer”. Bicycles that don’t finish the race are disqualified from the competition, so there is a huge amount of pressure on the pilote to complete the course. The last two riders to arrive were Noemie Delforge of LeBaron who’d only been roped into riding the day before, and Sophie Gateau of Cyfac who finished at 10:30 in the evening having put in a full 17 and a half hours in the saddle. In a heroically French way, Noemie finished full of energy, and managed to squeeze two cigarettes and a glass of wine into the minute between finishing and my taking a portrait. Sophie managed to complete the course with a set of flat pedals that she’d managed to get along the way, determined to make the finish.

The CDM’s technical commission inspected each bicycle carefully on arrival to check for any cracks or componentry failure under sodium lights outside the velodrome bar, whose stools historically hosted the bums of Eddy Merckx and Francesco Moser. Despite the race playing a significant role in CDM, the real contest was won or lost based on the bikes themselves having qualified through the race’s completion. Tune in next time to see who won what and why, and some other highlights from the show, held in Roubaix’s famous Stab velodrome.

The Show

Hundreds of cyclists amassed on machines varying from rando bikes to home-made bamboo truss frames, recumbents and cross-country bikes with rear suspension and slick tyres, in the car park in front of the Stab velodrome. We scrambled around in the fog of sleep deprivation, searching for coffee, which was only available from a machine, which only accepted change, which we did not have. The CDM social ride departed at party pace, podling placidly through Roubaix outskirts into potato fields, crisscrossed with cobbled pathways. The countryside was flat. From our potato path elevation, we could see nothing but fields between us and the horizon, besides the odd decrepit mill or farm building. After a couple of hours of tagging along at the very back of an already slow ride, we arrived back at the Stab velodrome where a vendor had just finished setting up breakfast pizza.

The revived CDM usually encompases a small show for the public to see the bikes, and meet the builders and for prizes to be awarded at the end of the contest. This year’s show was the biggest yet, held in the velodromes track center, with each builder having a space to display a number of bikes, as well as spaces allocated to other exhibitors. I almost wished the show happened on the first day, because with the time afforded by a whole day to look at just over dozen or so exhibitors, there was time to get to know people and understand the work in context of their creative practice rather than a stand-alone design for a one-off race. Within that context the work is far more engaging. It felt like a treat to see the entirety of what people are working on, as well as looking at some of the contest’s previous winners and the bikes that they built.

LaFraise Cycles, hosting this year’s edition of the concourse, and knowing well as former winners how involved just taking part is, didn’t enter the contest. However they did have a stand at the show. On their stand was an incredible road train of a pastel painted tourer, with matching Tangente Atelier bags and an ingenious folding dog trailer with wiring that ran through the hitch, to a pair of Supernova dynamo lights.

Next door was Victoire, who showed a huge number of bikes, covering a broad range of things from custom to off the peg and even balance bikes. Two bikes on the Victoire stand really caught my eye. One was arguably the fanciest balance bike I’ve ever seen; with a deep metal flake paint job to match an old Chris King rasta headset, hubs made in-house and of course, a trademark brass head tube badge. The other, was the personal bike of Jolie Rouge Cycles pilote Adélaïde De Valence, which was branded Distance; Victoire’s powder coated, off the peg lower cost sister brand. The first thing I noticed about the bike was how excited Adélaïde was about it. I was nosing around the Alex Singer stand, when Adélaïde appeared from nowhere and asked “have you seen my bike?”. In truth I had, but I didn’t know I had until Adélaïde led me back to the Victoire stand to look again.

“I had a bit of money I was meant to use to buy a house. I used it to buy a bike instead and I gave the key back for my apartment and I’m basically traveling with my bike all around. I’ve taken it on the train maybe 10 times and 7 times on a bus. I turn up at friends’ apartments, restaurants, living rooms. They know I come with my bike. Instead of saying spare room, they say the bike room. I like it because it’s not flash.”

With a full Apidura bike packing setup, the bike still looked as though it would offer a pretty spartan existence for a full time life aboard the bike. Even with places to sleep there just wasn’t leterage to fit modern existence, so I asked Adélaïde what she carried…

“Climbing stuff in one bag, sleeping bag in one bag, extra clothes (clean and dirty in one bag), one pair of bibs, tools in one bag, food in one bag, a lot of bars and candy. My favourite bar is Natural Valley but I love the sugary candy, Haribo. There’s a bag with some electronics and a camera. I don’t have my tent now because I’m staying at a friends house and I took it out to make space for this shirt”

Earlier in the day, she’d walked past like an Egyptian from the Bangles music video, looking smug. I’d assumed it was because she was carrying a crepe in one hand and a coffee in the other; the epitome of winning at life. I asked where the coffee had come from and she replied “look at my shirt!” with disdain for my not having noticed her noticeably fresh shirt. It was perhaps one of the finest shirts I’d ever seen, but probably not as comfortable to sleep in during a downpour as a tent.

“I also carry a backpack usually, for my laptop, and I also always carry some sardines because I love them and Captain Haddock…you know from Tintin”

She turned the Frenchness up to 11 with Tintin and that’s saying a lot at a rando constructeurs exhibition.

“My boyfriend is like Tintin, our dog is Milou (Snowy) and I’m Captain Haddock because I’m always drunk and grumpy. I dismantled the bike like 10 times already, to fit into cars and stuff like that. I don’t know what else to say about it, it’s pretty intimate.”

The bike was low key, considering the high end Ekar group. The matte UD finish on the carbon, went well with the dark olive drab powder coat and grey Apidura bags, taking utility as a theme.

Back to Alex Singer – the classic French rando brand. There were a few bikes on the stand, which all stood as iterations of a common theme, built over a 40 year period; so it was tricky to choose one to photograph. It was hard to tell what was new and what was old, because there was zero regard for modernity with the exception of one frame that was equipped with all the latest and greatest road cycling parts. I felt confused about why that stuff had been chosen for a new-old bike. It seemed like balancing reduced performance with reduced longevity. Although it’s possible you could see those things in a very opposite way, I felt a visceral glass half emptiness towards the mashup and chose to photograph Olivier’s personal bike instead, which was far more tasteful. I bumped into Olivier, who runs the company, at dinner the night before the race. Knowing full well the reaction I’d get, but nonetheless needing to hear it, I asked: Gravel is more or less a modern reinterpretation of randonneuring no?

Olivier contorted his features in a toss up between outright rage and confusion: “Gravel is just marketing. Big companies making marketing! Like in the 80’s with mountain bikes. No one needs that! First they make the frames stiffer and stiffer, so no one wants to ride them because they’re uncomfortable, so you need big tyres which are slow. The forks don’t flex properly because they’re too stiff. I’ve had my bike for over 20 years, and I can say now it’s perfect. Some parts have changed but the frame is the same and it’s perfect. I can do anything I need on it.”

I try to draw some comparisons but Olivier politely leaves the table, leaving his beer behind never to return.

Olivier has done some serious riding, and has been head of production at Singer for as long as some of the builders at the show have been alive. Having ridden the Paris-Roubaix 14 times on his bike in 20 years, he has a pretty solid idea of what works and why, and it must be frustrating that that idea is completely at odds with every part of modernity and its bicycles. Only the frame and saddle are original, as Olivier has replaced parts as they wear out, for whatever the best thing is at the time, as well as having repainted the bike a number of times. As such the bike is a mishmash of Campagnolo record and Shimano DURA-ACE parts from different eras.

This is, in a very modern way, at the core of Olivier’s ideals; the idea that products should last and not be replaced until they are worn out. The idea that things can be maintained rather than replaced, and the idea that newer, stiffer, faster and lighter are not the best fit for every use case. Through this lens, Alex Singer function as having a contemporary environmental agenda; making products that last and are made domestically from the most local parts available. This is in spite of the difficulty inherent in modern supply chains and without feeling the need to greenwash their activities. I prefer to look at Alex Singer in terms of having modern ideals, while building new old bikes, rather than as dinosaurs clinging to the idea of whipy frames being the only way to achieve comfort on a bicycle. As a subculture centred around DIY maintenance rather than ageing snobs building the bikes of their youth.

I asked a builder who was also standing at the Singer stand “which bicycle should I photograph?” He replied, “I don’t know? I don’t see the point of building bicycles now, the same as people made them 50 years ago.”

CDM is brutal like that, although it’s comforting to always know where you stand. There’s a huge part of me that agrees, but I also feel like seeing the bikes as old bikes, is missing the point. They’re new, handmade custom bikes, designed to fit a customer in a very personal, one-off way like any other handmade bike, however they’re made to adhere to a ridgid house style. It’s important to think of frame builders as designers as well as makers. The Singer house style doesn’t have to appeal to many people, because for the people who love them there’s almost nowhere else to go.

Olivier’s bike has a chainstay protector that I’ve only ever seen in use in France and Japan, and the halogen, bottle dynamo setup is affixed with curved tubes which are part of the rack. Olivier’s twenty year old bicycle, has a subtle elegance and its own unique style that matches Olivier’s. While Singer will always be a specialty product for more or less exclusively French people, 80 years and over 3500 frames in; it’s incredible that Alex Singer still exist and that they are part of a conversation like CDM, although I’d have loved to see them actually compete in the contest. Olivier was a lovely guy and although I didn’t really agree with many of his ideas about bicycles, I was super pleased to have met him. I was super excited that after all these years he’s still as enthusiastic as ever, about a very particular cultural subset within cycling. Ideas that have gone from normal, to out of fashion, to being a culture that makes its own rules and solves its own problems, in its own unique and creative ways.

I couldn’t spend any time with Olivier, without at least acknowledging the superhuman luft with which he wears his cycling caps. I’ve seen him riding with them, and they don’t fall off. I’ve seen images of lutfy caps from all the great cyclists of the 70’s, but I’ve never encountered anyone who can actually pull the luft off in modern times like Olivier. He gave me a hat and delicately positioned it on my head so that I could understand the subtle difference between fashionably lutfy and over ambitious. I have to say that having felt it, it’s a fine balance, like leaning back on the back legs of a chair. Another factor is the cap itself, which seemed to be both slightly smaller and also more elastic than any I’ve worn before. Having seen behind the magician’s curtain I feel more comfortable with the shape of my tiny head.

While Brevet Cycles didn’t have an official presence at the show, I did notice builder Sebastien Kein’s son Isaac freewheeling on a balance bike for about 20m weaving through the show like Lucas Brunelle in an alleycat. Later on I bumped into Sebastian and asked him about the bike which definitely had more design considerations than most kids bikes. For one, it was made entirely of scrap tubes and offcuts, but more impressively it was designed to be thrown on the floor, without being damaged. No matter how you throw the bike on the floor, the contact points are never the frame, only the tyres, grips and saddle touch the ground. Isaac was especially pleased with the bike, which as a bicycle made by a builder for a particular customer, is the only real measure of success. I stood the bike on a table to document it and Isaac promptly climbed up to make sure his bike was ok.

Lockdown, born Avalanche, were part of the panel of judges for the contest but also had a small booth at the show. They exhibited at Bespoked last year where they showed a couple of decent, well put together gravel bikes.

For the CDM show, they brought their new prototype road bike which has advanced leaps and bounds from the last bike I saw. It featured designed in-house dropouts, with replaceable polished stainless liners, 3D printed frame components and was built with a number of esoteric parts I’d never seen before. These included a Coco components saddle, also still a prototype, weighing less than nothing at around 60g with a rider weight limit of 120kgs!

I was pleased to be able to see what previous show hosts PechTregon Cycles have been working on, having built the best fat bike I’ve ever ridden which they kindly lent me when my steering system failed at the last CDM I took part in. They brought along a number of Cerakoted frames and bag supports, as well as their competition bike for the last CDM, which was filled with gas for cooking, and was one of the first frames they built with their own proprietary folding mechanism. Superstars of the previous contest Cycles Cadence had a little stand, and gave me their bike from last year to have a go on. The fork in particular was super impressive in its mega flex damping, while having zero judder when braking. It all felt very positive, stable and comfortable.

“I made a t-stem with an axle here that allows me to put the wheels on each side and I can keep the bags on it so it wont touch. Here I use two screws and the wheels stay on it, then I can turn the bike so I can carry it like baggage. The handlebars have enough cable to move it into the bag. I also made a system to carry the bike on your shoulder, so here you have your arm free, so you can easily go through a river or whatever you want to do. All these solutions are very hidden, even if you look at it closely, you don’t know you can do all these things. There is also lots of stuff to improve the aesthetics. I had the Stans NoTubes rims, and I asked a company to de-anodise them and polish them to have this neo-retro aesthetic. The bags were made to fit the bike. This Konga yoke is a bit special; the idea is to add more flex, but in reality it’s the tyre that does the job. On the front, the offset fork was designed around the idea of putting the fork blade at more of an angle, to add more flex. A lot of hours I spent on this bike, there are many bent tubes, and to make it symmetrical it was very tough. Overall the idea was to have something with very pure lines, I tried to keep the line of the chain stays on the seat stays. And all the bags have lots of compartments so you know where you put each of your items, and it’s possible to place the bags in different places, to distribute the weight on the bike in different ways”

It’s always a treat to see Jean-Michele (don’t call him Tim) of tim+tas+rek. He brought a number of customer orders to the show to drop off. Modern iterations of classically stiff french rando bags, incorporating his ingeniously lightweight and simple front bag catch, that interplays with the front racks that he makes. The whole system relies on the tension of a section of webbing on the back where it slips over the rack, so that an actual mechanical mechanism is not required.

The Results

Fanny of Stolen Garage won the race on arguably the most conservative bike of the competition. Stolen Garage tapped into the fact that both the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix are won on ordinary road bikes, and built an absolute masterpiece from Columbus XCR tubes, Enve forks and a Campagnolo super record groupset. I could understand the bike’s painter Danny’s frustration, that they didn’t also win the lightest bike, the cobblestone prize for which went home with Soum.

“That bike was 10.8 kg without bags, this fucking bike is 8.3kg without bags. I don’t believe that! I wanna weigh that with my own balance. It has a steel fork! We have a fucking 400g fork with inox steel tubes! You can’t go lighter than that! Stainless steel with a 400g carbon fork, c’mon. I wanna weigh that bike on my own.”

In fairness, Fanny was also a taller rider, so with the jury’s claimed coefficient of frame weight relating to rider height, it was tricky to see how a lighter bike could be made in steel, except for perhaps TIG welding the joints over brazing?

Second place in the race went to Jeane of Victoire. Third place went to Amelie of Soum.

The overall winner of the CDM based on the scores as allocated by the jury for the traditional criteria outlined by the contest, unsurprisingly went to the incredible Cyfac. The bike was pretty mind blowing on a lot of levels, although they did change pedals for flats in the race when the cleats failed, changing back for the show at the end, which strictly speaking I’m not sure should have been allowed. That aside, the bike was just a big old heap of technical achievements on technical achievements. Innovation on innovation and all for a one-off race in northern france. The pilote, Sophie, put in a mammoth effort to complete the course, no matter what to ensure that the bike made it into the contest, and although she couldn’t make it to the show at the end, that effort paid off. It was Cyfac’s 4th CDM, so company director Aymeric was super chuffed to have finally taken home the main prize.

“I feel good, very good. Because it’s the fourth time we have participated in CDM and each time we had a problem and it was an objective to win one time. You know Roubaix is a famous place for riders and Cyfac has a strong story with the professional teams, so it’s great to win the CDM in Roubaix. I was not the pilote, but I did the roads and I can really say it was a nightmare. To be honest, I wanted to use this bike because I could see it was dampening the vibration, I was just on a normal bike. I am very proud of the bikes, I am very proud of the team, we finished the bike at 3am in the morning two days ago, so it’s pretty crazy. I’m proud of that and I’m proud of doing this bike for a unique pilote like Sophie. It was a very hard road, and she was still smiling and was still happy. Even if we were not the first on the road, she told me we will never give up. So it was a unique pilote, for a unique bike, for a unique day.”

I couldn’t resist including Stolen painter Danny’s tongue in cheek review: “It’s like they were just fucking high on fucking acid, like, ‘I got an idea, oh I got loads of ideas! Let’s do them all together.’ Fucking reverse fork. I wanna do an echo fart in this velodrome, to let everyone know how I feel about this competition.”

Second place went to a deserving Victoire, and the cobble for third place was the first towards Jolie Rouge’s new Roubaix cobbled driveway, followed by the cobble stones for the public vote and peers vote. The public voted Victoire second and Cyfac third, while the builders voted Cycles Manivelle and Auguste second and third. I was super disappointed that Auguste didn’t win any prizes, Victor’s bike was an incredible achievement and had by far the nicest seat cluster, which was also an award, which was also taken home by Jolie Rouge, along with the award for best finish. Manivelle deservedly took home the cobble for nicest cable routing, Victore the prize for best craftsman, Caminade for best integration of lights and indisputably, Cyfac for best cobble killer. Soum took the prizes for lightest bike – critically this included bags and tools, not just the weight of the bike. They also won the award for best integration of bags and tools.

CDM is a very particular kind of bike show, and attracts a very particular crowd. Driven by innovation in often abstract criteria, it’s a framebuilders challenge more than a bike show. It’s the pinnacle of constructeur geekery and it continues to be a super fun show to visit, if not to take part in, and I look forward to seeing what next year’s Paris-Brest-Paris edition brings.