Brian Holm is a directeur sportif for the Belgian Etixx-Quickstep team. Famous for his style and passion for the sport’s history, the Dane was a professional cyclist for 13 years, winning a national time trial title and several one-day races. Following last week’s launch party of Rapha Copenhagen, which Holm attended, we spoke to him about the city’s cycling culture, how the sport has changed and, of course, about looking good on two wheels.
I grew up just outside of Copenhagen and started cycling in 1972. I’ve been crossing the city every day for over 40 years and can say we have a good cycling culture here. You have to go to places like London, Paris or Milan to realise how good we have it though.
Every morning the bike paths here are like Belgian kermesse races. There are so many cyclists going to work on them! In the ‘50s when they made the roads they made them with paths for cyclists, so the architects were pretty smart.
A ride outside of Copenhagen will always end back at the cafe. Nowadays when I go training I go north of the city and the last 18km we go full speed ahead with a sprint for a road sign to finish. But the coffee is important – I’d always rather go on a shorter ride to have my time with the coffee.
The state of cycling in Denmark has never been any better. Out of a population of five million people we have 400,000 cyclists who are doing races – it’s a great pleasure to see all the people out riding north of Copenhagen on Sundays.
The cyclists of my generation and before were always from the working class. You had to be a plumber or carpenter to be a cyclist. To be honest when I turned pro in 1986 I could have earned more money as a bricklayer. People would consider you a bit of an idiot to be a cyclist back then and it was something you did because you loved it.
It’s funny to see how the sport has developed. In the ‘80s days racers would lose their job if they had a tattoo, earring or beard – it was very conservative. In the last ten, fifteen years, the riders have started looking a little bit more like rockstars and it has really attracted more people to the sport. You see Brad Wiggins – he looks a bit like a rockstar; Cavendish is like Liam Gallagher when he talks – you hate him or you love him. It’s really good for cycling to have these types.
To look good is of course what everything is about. There are a lot of rules on what to do when dressing for cycling and if you’re starting out the best thing you can do is ask an old pro. You might be a hotshot with lots of money in the bank but be humble – you need ten, 15, or 20 years to have the experience to dress well.
One of my old Histor-Sigma team bikes is on display in Rapha Copenhagen. It wasn’t the biggest team in the world but it was where I had the best memories. I won Paris-Brussels and Paris-Camembert with them and I could write a big fat book about those two races. And another big fat book about the races I lost! That’s the thing with cycling, every race or ride is different, no two Sundays can be the same and you never know what’s to come.
Located in the heart of the city centre, Rapha Copenhagen welcomes riders and fans of the sport to discover the latest Rapha products, enjoy the finest food and coffee, and take part in rides and special events.