Cycling quite obviously lends itself to photography. Men and women doing heroic stuff on bikes, framed by epic backdrops of various Alps, velodromes, Pyrenees, Dolomites muurs and bloody sunflowers. Roadsides teeming with devils, mankinis, Dirk Hofman and those guys with American football gear while riders battle it out shoulder to shoulder or count down the lonely final kilometres in a desperate bid to keep the peloton at bay. There’s probably not much that hasn’t been photographed in a century or so.
So I was mildly surprised to find that author and friend of the Pod, Richard Moore was working on a pictorial history of the Tour de France ahead of its 100th outing this July. After all, he’s not a photographer. I was, nonetheless, quietly delighted to see a pile of the results of that work – Tour de France 100 – emerge from his suitcase at the recent Scottish Bike Show. I even bought my own copy…
So what of Tour de France 100? Moore was granted access to the Getty Archive and – as he told us recently – wanted to tell a story of a Tour less ridden. In this age of “new media” where any fan with a smartphone can take a decent shot and run it through Instagram and transmit it to the world in seconds, there is a refreshing poignancy in some of the images in this book. There’s Maurice Garin riding into Longchamps to win the inaugural Tour, a grainy full-page shot of Octave “Assassins!” Lapize pushing his rig (and, let’s be honest, that’s what we were talking about then) up the Tourmalet in 1910. The “quality” of the images is not necessarily in their composition or lighting, but in what they show.
As you’d expect, the photos are predominantly black and white, not in a moody, über-cool Rapha sense but simply because that’s what was available at the time. But that often serves to illustrate the things that make a Grand Tour – well – grand. One picture shows Firmin Lambot riding up the Galibier in 1920 and the starkness of black and white serves to illustrate the desolation of the Col at that time. With no baying crowds, no names painted on tarmac roads and just a rough track on a scorched mountainside you begin to get a sense of what an undertaking those early Tours were.
Throughout the book, Moore narrates tales and anecdotes from across the 100 editions: we read about Henri Pelissier falling foul of the race organisers’ clothing rule and remonstrating with Henri Desgranges in 1923. We associate Mont Ventoux with Tom Simpson’s tragic death in 1967 (indeed there’s a jarring image of Mister Tom receiving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation) but Moore writes of Jean Malléjac’s near identical incident during the 1955 visit to the Giant of Provence, collapsing in the heat, doped on amphetamine. He also writes of Louison Bobet’s nerves ahead of the same stage. “I don’t feel well, not well at all…” He attacked on the Ventoux and won the stage.
Indeed incidents in the Tour have a habit of returning to haunt the race. We see Roger Rivière being tended to after a crash on the Col de Perjuret in the 1960 race. Riviere hit a low wall while descending off the Col and would spend the rest of his short life (he died of throat cancer, aged only 40) in a wheelchair. The similarities with Fabio Casartelli’s fatal crash off the Col de Portet d’Aspet in 1994 will not be lost on any cycling fan.
As a student of the modern era, one thing that also struck me was seeing the riders’ eyes and in that, seeing the pain. Remember, Oakleys didn’t appear until the late 1980s. Anecdotes of Jacques Anquetil destroying all that lay before (and ultimately minutes behind) him are one thing, but the black and white images show haunted eyes and sunken cheeks tell a story of suffering too. That said, Fausto Coppi looks the epitome of cool in his shades!
What of that modern era? The usual suspects are all there, albeit in perhaps unseen guise. Bernard Hinault smiling (yes, really), Pedro Delgado skulking from doping control in 1988 and – yes – Lance Amstrong gets a look in too. As Moore points out, he can’t simply be erased from the pages of the Tour’s history, but suggests that perhaps the years 1999-2005 should be known as “the asterisk era”. Interestingly, there’s only one image of Floyd Landis throughout – not on his banzai solo break into Morzine on Stage 17 of the 2006 race, but rather the day before on that disastrous climb to La Toussuire. Who knew then at that moment of the significance of what was unfolding?
One final thought on an excellent book that deserves your attention: headlines become fact over the years (Simpson’s “put me back on my bike”, for example) and what actually happened on the road gets lost in hyperbole and the need to tell a good yarn. So, to stage 15 of the 2010 edition on the road to Bagnères-de-Luchon. Or “Chaingate”. We all know that Andy Schleck’s chain shipped on the climb and Alberto Contador stuck 42 seconds into him. Bet you don’t remember that it was actually Alexandre Vinokourov who was on Schleck’s wheel when it all went wrong tho’. That’s what Tour de France 100 does. And there’s not one sunflower in it either.
Tour de France 100 is published in hardcover by Bloomsbury. You can have a peek here.
Gary’s Inner Chimp goes fell running
Last Tuesday, Graham and I went for a “social pace” ride round the more scenic parts of Sausage Roll County, if such things actually exist. Over the thick end of 40 miles we took in Dalmeny, the Forth Bridges (under, not over), the wonderfully-named Faucheldean (not scenic, incidentally) and Linlithgow. Prior to reaching the Royal Burgh, Graham had casually suggested, “just want to drop down into Linlithgow and come back over Cairnpapple?” Oh, fuck. Of course I answered, “aye, no problem.”
Cairnpapple itself is a ceremonial and burial site dating back to Neolithic times. But that is a mere irrelevance when one considers my own recent history with it. Among local cyclists, it’s apparently a bit of a rite of passage with the road that takes visitors to the site (allegedly) being as steep as 17%. It’s also a rite of passage that I’d previously failed when I ended up getting off and pushing at one point. So on Tuesday night, I was inwardly less-than-thrilled to be heading back to the scene of my previous Calvary.
Social pace or not, I toiled up the climbs from Linlithgow. This was not helped by dodgy indexing meaning I already knew the 25T cog would not be available. Funny how it can be shifting like a dream on the stand, yet the moment you step on the pedals everything changes. Also at the back of my mind was the memory of last June’s failure. In some respects, I was already beaten and so it was to be. Long story short, I cracked just before the summit of the first real part of Cairnpapple and spent the remainder of our ride bewildered.
My mental block about Cairnpapple is a daft one when you consider that I’ve conquered longer and steeper climbs without too much drama. I’ve previously blogged about the Duke’s Pass and Schiehallion over which I’d genuinely lost sleep, driven by my fear of breaking down, blowing up or collapsing sideways when things point really skywards. I remained irked for the rest of last week. There was only one thing to do about this.
Perhaps buoyed by Super Saturday at the Olympics, I rolled out of bed on Sunday morning with some purpose. Scratch that, I had one purpose: to beat Cairnpapple. With Real Life scheduled to intervene later in the morning, this would have to be quick so a climb up to Beecraigs and across would have to suffice rather than the slog from Linlithgow, but direct from my door it’s largely uphill regardless.
The approaches were uneventful, although I was working hard and arm-warmers were already down by the time I reached Beecraigs. Rear mech tinkering the previous afternoon meant I was finding and – more importantly – holding 25T without any problems (I think the mech hanger may actually be bent, but that’s another story). The fact I didn’t actually NEED it at that point was also a bonus so the first mental block was removed. The road from Beecraigs can be a slog but I was happy with my climbing and also being able to take advantage of the rolling nature of the road with reasonably fresh legs.
As far as the cyclist is concerned, Cairnpapple begins with a sharp left-hand junction off the main road before it briefly levels out before commencing the first climb which is also a right-hand turn. I dug in and worked my way up past the visitors’ entrance to the historic site, knowing that I’d binned it here a few nights previously. I’d already made progress. Levelling out, I was a happy man before the road then plummeted right then left to the base of the second and larger climb. As with many climbs on the road, this one looks hellish, disappearing up to the right but, as I would soon discover, is eminently doable.
Okay, dig in, Gary. Up to that first marker, keep it going. Keep the upper body steady and keep your energy for the legs. That’s the game. Come on, Stumpy, dig in, mate. That’s it, that’s it, THAT’S IT!!! The lone walker at the summit of the cairn itself must have been bemused at sight of a lunatic on a bike coming over the crest of the road shouting, “Yeeeeeessssss!!!!!!”
Now, I know that some of you will be wondering what the fuss was about and it won’t be a big deal, especially if you’ve been over that climb yourself. But it was important to me, maybe as much for understanding how my mind works than just for being able to say I’d ridden up a big hill. In 2 previous attempts, I’d never considered that it was essentially 2 big efforts with a recovery in between. I’d just viewed it as one big monster of a climb that had beaten me every time I’d gone near it but it wasn’t actually Cairnpapple that had beaten me.
It was me.
I’ve been reading excellent 3-part series about the Tour of Rwanda by Tom Southam and Ben Ingham in Rouleur. It’s a fascinating glimpse inside what is a chaotic but no less passionate event that may just be as much about rebuilding Rwanda as it is rebuilding African cycling. If you can get your hands on issues 28-30, they’re worth the cover price.
Today, listener Will (@Downes_Cook on Twitter) sent us a link to this week’s Assignment programme, first broadcast on the BBC World Service. Reported Tim Mansel spent a week with Team Rwanda, coached by Jock Boyer, whose “colourful” past includes being first American to ride the Tour de France.
Here’s what the BBC website says:
“Rwanda – a country known only for the genocide of 1994, when an estimated 800,000 people, mainly ethnic Tutsis, were murdered in cold blood in a mere 100 days – is also a nation in need of heroes.
It may now have found them – lycra-clad athletes in helmets and wrap-around sunglasses on $5,000 racing bikes. They are Team Rwanda, the national cycling team, its tightly packed and brightly coloured peloton now a familiar sight on their training rides on the roads around Ruhengeri in the country’s north-west, not far from the border with Uganda.
For this week’s Assignment Tim Mansel has spent a week with Team Rwanda as they prepare for their latest international competition. The team assembles on a Monday night from all over Rwanda. They come by bike, some after riding for three or four hours, one after a ride of six. Their week is a series of gruelling rides, nutritious food, and daily yoga, all under the critical eye of their outspoken American coach, Jock Boyer.
It’s impossible to spend time in Rwanda without being confronted by the genocide, especially during the “100 days”, the period between April and July when the events of 1994 are remembered. Only a few hundred yards from where the riders live is the town’s genocide memorial, a walled garden dominated by a disturbing monument – the figure of a man pleading for his life and a machete that appears to be dripping in blood.
Team Rwanda is not immune from the genocide, indeed it makes explicit connections. Its website features biographies of several of its riders: Rafiki Uwimana, a small child in 1994, sent by his parents to live in the countryside to escape the horrors of the capital Kigali, forced to hide in the forest from the Hutu militias, and almost dying of malaria before being saved by the Tutsi RPF militia invading from Uganda; or Obed Rugovera, who lost three siblings and two uncles in the carnage.
‘The genocide has affected every one of the riders profoundly and you can feel it even without talking about it,’ says the coach, Jock Boyer. ‘Cycling… gives them the hope that they can buy a house, provide for their family, do something they’re good at and that they’re recognised for and that the country is not just going to be known for a genocide.’”
10 days after the end of the Tour de France and in the midst of the pomp, the glamour and the professionalism of the Olympic cycling programme, Mansel (and Southam and Ingham) paint a sobering reminder that while it may just be all about the bike, the other stuff isn’t always very far away.
We Brits are a curious lot. We are living through an age of unprecedented national success in cycling but somehow we seem desperate for an excuse for it all to end.
Bradley Wiggins has just won the Critérium du Dauphiné for the second year in a row, in convincing fashion (and we all know that with Brad rubbing neatly tailored shoulders with Sir Paul Smith, fashion is top of the list). He has completed an impressive treble of stage race results; Paris-Nice, Tour of Romandie & Critérium du Dauphiné.
In cycling, it is notoriously difficult to compare riders with their peers, let alone compare them with their predecessors from a different age. Cycling Weekly attempted to do just that & placed him 6th overall. Spurious league tables aside, however, there is no escaping the fact that Wiggins is a superstar. Massively successful, widely recognised, indeed to call him an icon of British sport would not be considered hyperbole by all but the most disingenuous of onlookers.
But for many I suspect the win in the Dauphiné will be seen as the last block in the building-up of Wiggins. What will follow is the inevitable knocking down. Already we have the social media sniping. Rarely is the word “incredible” used with more innuendo than in cycling. Those represent the darkest & most unfair of comments and for my money deserve little of the oxygen that social media provides them. Cleanliness is next to Godliness, I like to think of Brad as a cycling god.
What about the stifling of races by an overly dominant team, reminiscent of the dark days of…etc, etc. Again, the innuendo of this comparison is sickening and all too often spouted by those who appear to have little by way of love for the sport. We can all cheer the plucky Lanterne Rouge, but this sport is about winning and about winners. Wiggins just happens to be among the winningest right now (did I really just write winningest?). It is curious to me that for some fans, the only equation of use in cycling is winning = doping.
However, as the title of this post alludes to, I fear the most destructive knocking-down of Wiggins will begin within the next few weeks. At best, he wins spectacularly, Tour & Olympics (hey, let’s dream big). Likely he will be crucified for one of those classic intangibles like tactics. Or that perennial (though ultimately meaningless) favourite, lack of panache. His performance will be heralded, euphemistically, as “incredible” by those who wouldn’t know their VO2 from their H20 or their EPO from their HP Sauce.
At worst, things don’t go to plan for those three weeks in France and Wiggins is portrayed as the latest in a long line of nearly men of British sport; the plucky Tim Henman, the frustrating Andy Murray, British sportsmen for whom nothing will ever be good enough. Britain has a genuine sporting superstar on its hands (yes, I know, another one – I haven’t even mentioned Cav). He is intelligent, witty, engaging, fashionable, quirky – we could barely dream of a better role model for the plump-fleshed Playstation generation & yet I just know that for some it’s not going to be good enough this summer.
We didn’t build Brad up, so we don’t deserve to be allowed to knock him down. His toil and sacrifice has surely earned him the right to have us look up and admire him – even though he might never win Wimbledon.
Gary finally checks out (but doesn’t leave) Scotland’s only closed-road sportive
So here I was, at the start of my first ever Marie Curie Etape Caledonia and already the wheels were quite literally coming off. Well, the rear one was about to anyway. Such was my panic to get a new tube in that I completely blanked Drew from West Lothian Triathlon as I got my sick bike out of the throng. Still, minutes later, I was back in line. That’s enough pressure in the tube surely…?
Wave T trickled out of Pitlochry about 15 minutes after its allotted start time and headed northwest before turning due west to begin catching the forecast headwinds. Still, it was largely dry so no worries. The first ten miles rolled by fairly steadily and we hit the 1km sprint after Tummel Bridge. My time over this section indicates that I was munching my first half energy bar at this point rather than giving it the full Cav, such was my paranoia about bonking and dehydration. Of course, my other paranoia was my rear tyre and I would of course check out mechanical support at the first feed zone to borrow a track pump. Except there wasn’t one. Ach, it’ll be fine.
About 5 miles later, things weren’t fine: pinch flat. I felt it go. Schoolboy error. However the rear wheel was off before I had time to stop swearing and a marshal also arrived on moto to give me a hand. I wasn’t in the mood for patching so my 2nd spare tube was pressed into action. 15 mins later I was off again.
The headwinds along the north side of Loch Rannoch didn’t seem as bad as had been forecast nor as we had feared and I was pleasantly surprised to hit the 30 mile marker as we rounded the west side of the Loch and effectively did a u-turn. The subsequent miles were okay with some tailwind component from the south westerly pushing us towards the Etape’s showpiece climb: Schiehallion. But before that particular challenge, I felt the back tyre let go again. I can’t remember if I vocalised the virtuoso performance of apocalyptic language that danced around my head but it would have been a cracker. At the roadside in the peeing rain and with both spares used, this time was actual repair time. But then it wasn’t, as another moto appeared and astride it was another friendly marshal, who offered me a tube. Better still, he had a minipump that was better than my 5-star-review-my-arse Blackburn effort. I could have kissed him. With the tyre completely removed and rim inspected to ensure no puncture-causing debris, I was certain that I’d be okay for the remaining 40-odd miles. Well, reasonably confident. And by that I mean I’d spend the next 40 miles looking backwards and downwards just to be sure…
Regular visitors to the blog (both of you) may recall I’d written about the Duke’s Pass which I rode in the Scottish Bike Show Sportive a few weeks ago. Graham and the other guys were adamant that this was a bigger, longer and more bastardly affair than Schiehallion. But what Schiehallion may lack in distance, it certainly doesn’t lack in sharpness. Cautiously optimistic after my latest technical issues, I hit the entrée to the Etape’s main course and after the first couple of short, sharp ramps there were already people off and pushing. One guy had what I thought was a comedy SPD-moment, until I saw he was riding on flat pedals. Oops. The next comedy moment was a bloke on a recumbent. Nothing actually happened, you understand, but he was a bloke on a recumbent. Sometimes the comedy just writes itself you know. Anyway, things pointed downwards briefly but there’s another couple of miles of steadier climbing to be had before you can say you’ve cleaned it. I have to concur that the Duke’s is the tougher climb but I was once again quietly chuffed that I’d bagged another iconic Scottish climb and that my legs felt this good.
The descent, however, was southerly and catching a fair bit of head- and crosswind. How we laughed at the “Caution!” signs, struggling to break 20mph in bizarre gear combinations for the terrain. We did, however, veer briefly away and pick up some decent speed. At one point I thought I saw a sign for Courchevel until I realised it said “Coshieville”. Time for another gel then…
Hereafter came what most people I spoke to described at their most miserable part of the day and I’m pleased that it wasn’t just me then. We turned southwest and squarely into the teeth of the gale. Here the road was exposed, with the wind not only being channelled between hillsides but coming down off the hills themselves. At times it felt like the wind was just everywhere and at 55 miles gone, I was now attaining single-digit speeds. At this rate I’d be home by Wednesday. Fortunately the course turned back on itself and we reaped the rewards, so much so that I simply blasted past the final feed zone and on to the 70 mile marker. I may even have uttered the words “well, you probably won’t die now, Gary”…
I passed a stationary Drew just after the quaintly-named village of Pitnacree. This fact in itself instantly suggested something had gone disastrously awry with his day. He revealed later that it had: a loose crank bolt. Here too was a pipe band and a reasonably-sized crowd of well-wishers on the outside of a sharp left-hander. One that went up almost as sharply as it went left. I’d been forewarned of this and got into the granny ring just as I began to feel the climb bite. Standing on the pedals and riding remarkably (cf “suspiciously” – must check the ingredients of those Torq gels) well with 76 miles in my legs I saw that a good number of folks lined this sting-in-the-tail. Sadistic gets or not, it was genuinely quite humbling to see and I mused that this must be what it must feel like to be a proper cyclist.
To be buoyed by the fact that it was nearly done would have been a mistake. The farm road behind Logierait had at least 3 sharpish climbs that lay in wait for those expecting to freewheel home. At one point I muttered “f**k off and stop going up!”, which I think the rider next to me may have thought was aimed at him. Oops.
By the 80 miles sign, it nearly was over, however, and we began the fast approach to Pitlochry. I hadn’t appreciated just how much of a slope upon which the High Street sits but I still managed a wee kick to the finish line. My computer told a tale of 5hrs 17 minutes of actual ride time. The text from the organisers told me my punctures had taken me 32 minutes. Wind, rain and crapness almost certainly robbed me of more time but I didn’t care: I’d completed my single longest continuous day in the saddle ever. Okay, it was 61 quid, but I’ll leave that for another day.
Now, where’s the Savlon…?
Casting an eye over Roche Jr’s tales from the peloton
To be honest, I’d never given a whole lot of time to learning about Stephen Roche or even his compatriot Sean Kelly, largely because their stars shone in an era when: a) I had no interest in cycling as a sport and; b) they would probably have fallen victim to nearly all of my boyish, pre-enlightenment, Thatcher-era, BBC-informed prejudices about our near neighbours. Oh, yes, here we go: 8th child of piss-poor devoutly religious family who live in a one-bedroom council flat in Ballymun is given grandpappy’s 1927 tourer and rides to greatness in a heart-warming Rags-to-Roubaix tale.
It’s probably no surprise, then, that I posted a tweet last year displaying a distinct lack of enthusiasm for the (then) forthcoming Nicolas Roche biography, Inside the Peloton. The memoirs of the 2009 Irish National Champion certainly didn’t sound like a sure-fire “beg, borrow or steal a copy” read to me. Yeah, yeah, so his old man won the Tour, but I wouldn’t be rushing out to buy an Axel Merckx book any time soon either, would I?
Thankfully, my views of the world and the events which shape it are slightly different to those which I held when I was 14 and, like you, I know that for a glorious period in the 1980s, 2 Irish cyclists swept nearly all before them. GC wins in two Vueltas d’Espana, a Giro d’Italia and a Tour de France, plus a World Championship, umpteen Maillots Verts and a bundle of Classics are just some of the stats which comprise the Roche/Kelly palmares. They also briefly hogged the top 2 placings in the world rankings. Oh, and the Irish football team dumped England out of the 1988 European Football Championships too. It is in this Ireland, with those very earliest glimpses of what would become known as the Celtic Tiger, that the roots of Nicolas Roche are firmly planted. Yes, yes, and in France too. Nico’s memoir – ghost written by Irish journalist Gerard Cromwell – is therefore more Tony Doyle than Roddy Doyle.
Nico doesn’t take the usual approach of endlessly detailing his earliest races and we find him in the colours of a Cofidis stagiaire fairly quickly. What the reader gets then is a view of what it’s like being a pro racer rather than what it’s necessarily like being Nicolas Roche, and that’s not a criticism. Whilst drawing from his various diaries which appeared in the Irish press, including the infamous John Gadret incident from the 2010 Tour, it’s no Clarkson-esque collection of Things-What-I-Wrote-Earlier and Nico’s race diaries are interspersed with tales of training, of injury and recovery and some snippets into Roche family life. He touches on his parents’ separation and divorce and his youngest brother’s (ultimately successful) battle with leukaemia without getting too maudlin or sentimental.
On the one hand the diaries are great in revealing a stage race from the rider’s perspective and Nico sheds some interesting angles on incidents that will be familiar to many cycling fans: Mark Cavendish’s spat with Heinrich Haussler in the 2010 Tour de Suisse, for example; the day that HTC’s George Hincapie was denied the yellow jersey in the 2009 Tour (not just Garmin’s fault, people!) or Fabian Cancellara’s patron-age to neutralise Stage 2 of the 2010 Tour after a crash had split the race with his team mates the Schleck brothers firmly on the wrong side of that split. They also shed a fair bit of light on race tactics for the uninitiated. If, however, you’re reading them daily in a newspaper then they capture the immediacy of his post-stage views but on the other hand, a reasonably informed reader will already know more about specific stages or incidents than the diaries can describe so there’s a little feeling of “and…?”. But, I guess that’s both the boon and the bugbear of a diary so maybe I’m being just a little churlish here.
The expectation that might be felt by being the son of one of the English-speaking world’s most famous – and successful – cyclists should be reasonably high, you might think, but this rarely comes across in Nico’s writing. It’s clear from the outset that he’s his own man although Stephen himself writes in the final chapter that he has deliberately maintained an I’m-here-if-you-need-me rather than “competitive dad” approach to his eldest son’s career. Apart from some early barbed comments from Cofidis directeur Eric Boyer (“you’re only here because of your father”), it’s really only in this latter chapter that Nico acknowledges any pressure from being Stephen Roche’s son.
Most readers will be reassured that Nico doesn’t shirk from speaking out against one of cycling’s biggest blights: those infamous Ag2r brown shorts. He’s also reasonably frank – albeit briefly – about doping too although there might be some sniggers amongst those who harbour suspicions about his father’s alleged use of EPO during the early 1990s. At the same time, he doesn’t lose sleep about racing clean against those who might be less so, but does acknowledge that if he did, he’d “probably crack up”. If you’re looking for Rough Ride: Reprise, though, look away now.
Revisiting my earlier – unfounded – pre-publication cynicism, Inside the Peloton reminds the reader without apology that at the time of writing and at 27 years old, Nico “only” had 5 pro victories to his name. The word “disappointment” features in this book almost as often as the number 2 appears in Andy Schleck’s palmares. Even dad Stephen is perhaps a little restrained (realistic?) about his son’s potential, suggesting that a Vuelta victory is more likely than a Tour GC win. However, Bradley Wiggins, in his after word to the book, points towards Cadel Evans as a rider who has excelled comparatively late in his career and speaks both glowingly and confidently about his former team mates prospects. And there lies the conundrum with which I was left: is Nico’s story a tale of a career that actually is unfulfilled or one that has yet to be fulfilled. One wonders whether his subsequent Tour of Beijing stage win might be a springboard to further victories, but only time will tell.
Overall Inside the Peloton provides a decent insight into the perhaps less-glamorous life in the bunch. It’s often more about chasing rather than being at the absolute peak of form, but is no less engaging as a result. Nico’s not (yet?) the superstar his old man became, but he’s now firmly on my list of riders I want to see do well in 2012.
Worth a read.
Confused by the accents in Episode 23? Don’t do Fazzbook? Well there’s still a chance to get your hands on some schwag, courtesy of Mat, Pete and Jessica at Shutt Velo Rapide!
Just tell us who’d feature in your Christmas-themed peloton. How about Bauble Julich, Angel Gabriel Rasch or maybe even downhiller Mick Hanukkah? If you think you can come up with some names funnier than Gary’s miserable attempts, post your entries in the comments section below, tweet them @veloclubdl or send them to us at email@example.com.
The funniest will be drawn in Episode 24 – around 11 December – and will scoop the Shutt Velo Rapide goody musette, containing:
A TWENTY FIVE POUND voucher to buy even more Shutt gear from their online shop!!!!
Other entries deemed worthy will pick up some Fort William World Cup goodies and all winners will get the obligatory VCDL fridge magnet too (sorry)!
So, go on, give it a bash. Oh, and Frankincense Schleck’s already taken…
Gary was delighted when a proof of Ned’s new book unexpectedly dropped through the letter box at Stumpy Towers. So was his wife, Mel. Guess who got first read…
Ned Boulting, football commentator and Tour De France expert – or is he? This book shattered one of my illusions fairly quickly, chapter 2 actually. I thought all TV pundits had an encyclopedic knowledge of their sport. Surely they did hours upon hours of preparation before each race, game, round etc? The frankness and honesty of this author proved otherwise.
The author and I share 2003 in common as our first real Tour. We also shared the same confusion, ignorance and bewilderment about what on earth this race was all about. I played out my embarrassing ignorance in the privacy of my living room, with my husband there to shed light on just what a peloton was, why George Hincapie would gladly give up his own chance of a win for Lance “Larry” Armstrong and what the multitude of jersey colours actually meant. Sadly for Ned he had to do it in front of TV audiences as a first time tour reporter for ITV. Poor Ned. His ignorance did however give us many a laugh and a wince – the yellow jumper Ned?! Really, even I wouldn’t have made THAT particular mistake. (more…)
Some thoughts and observations on my first olympic distance triathlon, by @40somethingrunn.
Having been lured into triathlon by Clewsy and BMFW last year, I have now completed 3 sprint distance triathlons. Thats 750m swin, 20km bike followed by a 5km run. Generally the swim is in a pool. The only thing for it was to step up and move to the next distance. Olympic distance triathlons (so called because thats what they do in the olympics) are double the distance, 1500m swim, 40km bike and 10km run. However the swim is open water, so slightly different!! (more to follow).So the London Triathlon was entered and suddenly it was here. Having arranged a short break to London, the packing was done and off we went.
Having just returned from a few days in London, I feel I need to comment on bike travel in London.
Having exhausted public transport options to get to the Excel centre for 6am, I was left with 1 option…..cycle out with all my tri kit. Not ideal given the 3hrs plus it would take to complete the triathlon, but I convinced myself it was a good warm up.
After negotiating the clubbers etc at 5.30am, I started my journey. Follow the A13 then the A1011, should be straightforward. And do you know…..it was. The easiest bike journey I have ever done. 30 mins later I’m at the excel, stress free and ready to set up.
The journey home was slightly more complex, involving trains, ferries etc, however got back to Central London, accompanied by Lynne and found that no bikes on the tube. Easy…I’ll cycle, you get the tube. 10 minutes later I’m at the hotel and no sign of Lynne. In a Top Gear challenge style, the bike won.
Over the next few days the number of commuter cyclists I saw was incredible, all sizes, all bike types and there appeared to be no apparent danger even on the busy roads.
Interestingly, all the cyclists obeyed the traffic lights, used the bike lanes where possible and seemed to command the respect of the drivers. (although I’m sure there will be drivers who curse the sight of a cyclist)
Boris is doing a fine job, the cycle hire scheme seemed well used and there are various super highways being implemented for bikes.
Refreshing to see and if you are going to London, register for the scheme and take advantage of the £1 daily charge and the first 30mins for free. It may just change your outlook.