Tuesday, November 15, 2016

My new incentive for cycling in autumn

The beginning of autumn is beautiful. The leaves turn brown and when the sun shines through them they glint a golden colour as they hang onto the trees. But then they fall and everything looks and dead. The trees are bare and empty and when the wind blows through them the cold hits you hard and reminds you of winter. Autumn is pretty, but late fall is pretty sad. Nothing left to do but pick up the dead leaves from the ground and prepare for snow next.

Cycling through autumn though can be wonderful. The temperature drops with the leaves but so do the demands on your fitness and training and form. Riding slower and taking in the beautiful colours around you becomes easier at the back end of the cycling season. Until it gets too cold at all and you're spending too much time on a turbo. In a trace like state, starting at the wall in front of you. Going nowhere.

That is it, if you live in a country like Canada. If you don't take off to a training came somewhere warm. If you aren't a professional headed to some exotic training camp. But right now, in autumn, even the professionals ride like us. If only for a month. They're back at home now and riding at a speed we can comprehend and could even ride along with. Enjoy it, I tell myself, before they go south to places warm and I go south to the basement and that turbo.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Living like a pro is easy in October

The professional road racing season is all over now. Riders have either gone home, gone cross-racing, or moved indoor to the track. The next time we will see them will be down under in Australia. Those who have gone home, I like to think, have made the right choice. They get to be normal for a month, eat what they want, enjoy a drink, and be a little lazy. In other words the gap between me and them narrows.

Of course, those who have stayed on their bikes deserve credit to. They continue to entertain. In London last week there was the six day race featuring Mark Cavendish and Bradley Wiggins. They didn't win it, but the crowd went wild anyway. So much for the TUE scandal having an affect on Wiggins' popularity. The media are not amused.

And the cross-season is upon us too. It always makes for great television. I always watch at least a few races and say, one day I must go to Belgium to watch this in person. I say that about a lot of things though and can only add it to my lengthy bucket list.

Monday, October 24, 2016

A unique looking Tour route for 2017

I've said it before, but I'll say it again the annual unveiling of the Tour de France route. It is like being a kid on Christmas morning who gets to see all his presents but can't open them for nine months. Yet it is always worth a good look and we analyse it and make predictions about how it might go. It's a nonsense, but it's fun anyway. For a few moments it feels like it is a little closer to starting than it is.

So what do I make of it? Well here is in a nutshell what I seen when I first took a look. A route that appears closer to a figure of eight than a circuit around France. A course that hits all five major mountain ranges in France. Which incorporates just three summit finishes and only 36km of individual time-trialing, including a 13km opening day race against the clock.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Sagan retains title as the desert winds blow

Never underestimate the ability of great cyclists to put on a great race on any circuit in any conditions in any country in the world. Sunday's elite-men's World Championship road-race proved that. A deserted circuit in the desert, the conditions were baking hot and the country was Qatar. And yet, the race was brilliant.

I was still in bed when the Qatari winds blew and the big-name opportunists split the race to bits. Echelons were the name of the game. The UCI must have been praying for those winds such was the negativity around these championships. Too hot, too remote, nobody watching. Barriers erected to keep stray camels off the course rather than for fans to lean against, or so it felt. A pan flat circuit that seemed made for a bunch sprint.

By the time I tuned in, there was a group of about 30 ahead with a chasing pack behind. The race was on and there was so far still to go. Some big names had made the split while other big names were reeling. This would be one thing in normal racing conditions, but across the desert? For over 250km? It would prove to be relentless. It would leave some broken. Only 53 of the 197 who took the start, finished.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Hemingway and cycling in France

The cycling calendar has gone quite quiet. There was only four major races in Europe this past week. A few of them, I'd never even heard of. I had heard of the four different winners however. John Degenklob won the Sparkassen Münsterland Giro in Germany, Adnaud Demare won the Binche-Chimay-Binche in Belgium, Sam Bennett won the Paris-Bourges in France, and Fernando Gaviria won the Paris-Tours.

I didn't see any of them and haven't got a lot to say about them. My enthusiasm draining a little; in tune with the falling temperatures outside. I'm cycling less too and so are they. The worlds are ahead and there will be plenty to write about in the days ahead. My enthusiasm isn't helped by the ongoing drama encircling Team Sky and Bradley Wiggins. I've more to say about it, but I have no desire to do so just now.

In place of cycling I've been reading more again and just this past month I've taken to Ernest Hemingway. I can't quite believe it took so many years. The first story I went to was actually an audio book. A memoir called A Moveable Feast, published after his death about his early years in Paris. It's no secret that Hemingway was a big fan of cycling and wrote about it in several of his books. That said, I wasn't aware the subject would come up in A Moveable Feast, but I wasn't surprised either. It's only a couple of paragraphs but in it he describes his memories of watching the sport in Paris, on the track. It's a fascinating yet all too brief look at cycling in those times. His descriptions are wonderful. In no time he makes you feel as though you are there and gives you a longing to go immediately to a big track event yourself.

Monday, October 3, 2016

A Colombian monument win

I didn't get to see a lot of Il Lombardia as it is now known, or the Tour of Lombardy as I know it. To tell the truth I forgot it was even on. I was watching the Liverpool match on my television that morning and when it ended I was thinking what to do with the day when I remembered.

The race, I thought. How long is left? Have they crossed the crucial climbs? I couldn't find it on TV and so I was scrambling for a feed on the iPad. The kids were nearby and any use of the iPad was liable to have them circling for a turn themselves. 'Can I watch some princess songs?' I was bracing for that, so I stayed subtle and got the race up, always ready to switch to the phone if required.

There was still 40km left. I was okay. The first main selection had been made but the best action was still ahead. Over the next half hour or so I dipped in and out. I refreshed the feed a couple of times. I made a cup of tea. I even fed the children some breakfast. By the time it was nitty-gritty time, I had settled back in and was ready for the climax.

Monday, September 26, 2016

A word on the Wiggins/Sky TUE 'scandal'

I wanted to ignore it, but I've felt obliged to put something on record. It's not that it isn't important, that it doesn't matter. It does. It's just mind numbing. It's the racing I'd prefer to talk about. Yet I must say something. I will of course skip the who, what, when, where and why's. If you're still reading this come the end of the second paragraph, you'll already know that.

Yes, I am referring to the 'Fancy Bears' hack of athletes private medical data. And in this case the cyclists caught up in it. Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome, and their Therapeutic Use Exceptions (TUEs).

Wiggins was the biggest one. If anything Froome came out looking good...two uses of a TUE, both of which we knew about anyway. He's had none since 2013 and has done the best of his winning since then. At the 2015 Tour, Froome fell ill and should have had a TUE, but refused. He even put out a statement condemning the abuse of the medical exceptions.

Wiggins though...he's in the hot water.