After having previously attended the Rouleur Classic as a guest in 2015 and partners in 2016, we were honoured and excited in equal measure to be invited back to be present once again at Rouleur's annual exhibition - with this year "The Monuments" the theme.
Here's our take on when and what happened!
After last years display of 24 of our favourite retro jerseys was so well received, we wanted to do something a little different for this year. If you are not moving forward you are standing still - right?
With last year's space occupying an incredibly busy thoroughfare route between the entrance and the bar, our site visit in July would indicate that the space for 2017 would require a different approach.
This added to the fact that the space would also house Rocket Espresso who would be providing the very best shots of espresso on their exquisite R60 V machines, Rohan Dubash working on rare and exotic bikes and Rouleur's own excellent and informative podcast who would be recording exclusive sessions from many of the special guest visitors in attendance.
The initial idea was to try and represent the very best parts of our old favourite bike shop where incredibly both Mick and Andy worked at for a while in the dim and distant past.
It's fair to say that we spent hours in our archive, digging out old magazines, posters, jerseys and other collectables to suitably furnish our shared space where visitors could enjoy decades of history. Obviously, this was all about the best bits, so rare old jerseys, rare copies of the Kennedy Brothers Tour books plus a huge archive of Winning Magazine (more on that later).
The working title for the area was The Hub but none of us were really 100% happy about that so we got our thinking hats on and Lawrence (a friend in France) suggested La Vélothèque - a of a play on words to la discothèque - which was suitable due to Mick's musical past.
We then got Fergus to design a logo for La Vélothèque as it was important for the space to have it's own branding as four of us would be sharing it and we didn't want it to be all about us.
Next up was the decoration of the walls, giving it a homely feel without looking like a bike jumble. Andy decided on using magazine covers for the back wall as they would also form part of the installation.
The now defunct Winning magazine that was published between the late 1980's and mid 1990's was without doubt the UK fans only real glimpse into the exotic European pro scene (Channel 4's coverage aside). It's Tour de France specials being well worth the effort of riding to your local newsagents every Wednesday - a carefully planned 24 hours ahead of Cycling Weekly's latest issue. We have a plentiful collection of them here at Prendas and were only too happy to share some of them with visitors to the show.
The Kennedy Brothers Giro and Tour books are a little more obsure - but bear with me. Occasionally turning up on eBay, I purchased my first one in 1989 when I was enthralled by that year's Tour de France coverage, and have more recently been collecting them as they contain some often not-on-the-Internet archive photos of riders in retro jerseys that we add to our retro peloton.
As you'd expect in this day and age, getting hold of the Rouleur covers that we like was relatively easy as Rob had them all to hand including the much sought after Issue 1. My own personal favourites are the two by Ritch Mitch featuring the jersey designs of the La Vie Claire jersey and the cartoon-like Z retro jersey.
Covering our installation's walls were the timeless photographs of John Pierce.
As some of you will know, John has collaborated with us for a number of years and he tends to fly under the radar a little despite having been an official photographer at 51 editions of the Tour de France.
So when Rouleur's Ian Cleverly recently interviewed JP in issue 17.5 we decided we just had to join the dots and get John in the spotlight for once - he was even there in person on Thursday which was great to see.
The general idea was to easily allow visitors to the show to get their favourite star to autograph a memento of the occasion. So we produced a set of 12 postcards featuring JP's photographs which, along with a retro jersey key ring, were included with the visitor goodie bags. We also handed out hundreds of postcard packs to visitors over the three days - all you had to bring was a suitable pen to get them signed!
We are fans too and even we were delighted when Johan Museeuw and Hennie Kuiper did the honours for us!
Planning, endless emails, 3D visuals, phone calls, artwork proofs, meetings are all well and good but until you actually get on site and start to put your space together you never really know if it will turn out exactly as you planned it.
Everything we needed was sent via courier thus allowing us to let the train to take the strain and thankfully avoiding a car journey into central London.
By the time we'd arrived, Rohan looked like he'd been there for days already with his Campagnolo toolset already gathering admiring glances from fellow exhibitors.
The guys from BangOn had already started expertly applying the artwork as per our discussions, so our work was confined to getting our curiosities setup in a glass cabinet, sorting some extra lighting, helping Rocket get setup then decamping to the hotel before the grand opening on the Thursday evening.
The opening night, with it's free drinks, has an incredible buzz about the place and has to been seen to believed however my own personal highlight was seeing John Pierce talking to many visitors about his photographic career.
Another highlight was listening on the questioned posed to Jonathan Vaughters by Ian Parkinson for the Rouleur Podcast who explained some interesting background on what it takes to run a top level pro team. As we sent JV some money via the #SaveArgyle crowdfunder I didn't feel too bad about listening in before it went out on the podcast!
There was plenty of noise in the exhibition about 3T's bike launch - I ride around on a single chain ring set up these days - but can a pro team do it? Only time will tell!
We did see Gerard Vroomen at our the now annual visit to the Chambeli Indian Restaurant, but we all were too busy talking nonsense to ask him about the exact thinking behind it all!
La Vélothèque struck a chord with many visitors and just when you think the event could not get any better - the Lion of Flanders himself strolled in grabbed an espresso, sat down and proceeded to read through the mags in our space!
When something like that happens - you have to pinch yourself - remembering back to when you first saw him ride the RVV going up hills in unthinkable gears after over 200kms of racing. Hands up, we can all be a little jaded, cynical, industry types sometimes, but that small event transported me back to 1994!
Whilst last year it was all about Team Sky moving from Rapha to Castelli, this year the big buzz was about the Team EF kit launch. We'd already spotted the kit being artfully shot on some marble stairs on Thursday, so knew the colours involved, but couldn't help thinking it resembled a bit of a team Fat Chance throwback. Even so - we think we like it.
Alberto Contador was, without doubt, the star turn with plenty of visitors packed into the theatre to hear him speak about his career and final season. Juan Antonio Flecha was on hand for any translation issues, but he was not required, Alberto conducted the interview with aplomb!
Santini was also out in force to explain their newly announced agreement to supply the Trek Segafredo with on and off bike clothing for 2018. Managing director Monica Santini and marketing manager Paola Santini were both later interviewed in La Vélothèque for the podcast - incredibly it was the first time they'ed ever been on a podcast!
Magnus Bäckstedt and Roger Hammond were interviewed together with the subject matter being the 2004 edition of Paris Roubaix. Despite there obviously being only one winner, the two seem to get on rather well.
Hennie Kuiper arrived on Saturday to promote his new coffee table book, but he kindly took the time to speak to us all before his podcast slot. He seems a genuinely really nice guy and had some wonderful stories from when he was racing back in the day!
One unexpected plus for our space was our lightning exit. Unlike last year, we managed to pack up and get to London Waterloo in a painless and efficient manner. Although getting through the ticket gates onto the platform with all the usual luggage, a huge roll of artwork and two huge boxes of archive magazines was a little problematic... but we survived. We're just glad we didn't bring any bikes!
The 2018 Rouleur Classic will return to Victoria House again running from Thursday 1st November through to Saturday 3rd - thankfully avoiding a date clash with the annual dinner for the Dave Rayner Fund on the 10th. The early-bird ticket prices offer pretty good value for money if you can get them and are normally announced via the Rouleur Classic social channels.
Plus if you don't happen to live in the UK, there just might be one on your doorstep sometime soon!
As you would expect, Rouleur Magazine themselves covered the event in great detail with some of our favourite articles being the ones that featured Fabian Cancellara, Tiffany Cromwell or Patrick Lefevere.
They also recorded some fabulous material for their podcast, the first of which was released on the 9th November with Jonathan Vaughters, Patrick Lefevere and Stefan Denifl featured.