Thursday, 29 December 2011

The Constitution

There are a lot of things that go into making a good cyclist, but I strongly believe that first and foremost being a good cyclist comes down to one thing: constitution.

There are those that have it, and those that don’t. There is no real way of properly defining constitution, or indeed testing for it in a lab. Some of the most unlikely souls seem to be possessed of the most rugged constitutions, and there are plenty of dilletantes who think they should have it but who just don’t.

You can't create or replicate constitution any more than you can sprout wings and fly. It is something you either have or don’t, and it is apparent in all walks of life. Lou Reed had constitution, Keith Richards & Margaret Thatcher had constitution. Like them or not, they were people who could live off scant hours of sleep, and still work at an incredible rate, without making themselves ill.

To be a bike rider you have to have constitution simply so you don’t miss races by being sick or injured. These days science fights an ongoing and impressive battle with constitution. Riders only have to show a glimpse of talent at a young age before they can be supported by all sorts of practitioners and specialists who work so hard to make human bodies that keep failing, keep going.

Injuries and sickness are often tagged as bad luck, but being slow to recover, or being sick or injured in the first place, is often natures way of telling the human body that it is beyond its limitations.

However the fact remains, you will always have to have constitution to be a bike rider at the highest level. You will have to not injure easily, not get sick through periods of physical and mental exhaustion, and you will have to keep digging deeper and deeper into reserves that won’t deplete.

I was made up to find then, during some research, the palmares of this man: Benoit Faure´.

Not only was Faure´ 8th in the 1930 Tour de France while riding as a ‘Tourist-Routiere’ he was a professional cyclist for a remarkable twenty years, racing between 1925 to 1945. Conditions for cyclists in that era were unbelievably arduous compared to today’s standards (even without the world being at War for the last 5 years of his career).

How he managed to keep going for twenty years at that time is beyond me. Faure´ wasn’t a real winner, taking only 24 victories in 20 years, the most important of which being the Criterium International in 1941. But he must have had enough to keep slugging away.

All I can say judging from the few photos of him, the remarkable career length, and his 80 years on the planet, is that there was a man with a constitution, a man cut out to be a professional bike rider.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Winter of content.

For a long time I thought the world would end when I stopped bike racing. It didn’t. Fortunately. My slow extraction from the sport may have saved myself the total shock that many riders can face when they finally stop racing.

The fear of it was there though. I think that when you are racing properly, cycling demands so much concentration and focus that you really can’t see beyond it. To quote Bill Shankly, “it’s not life and death, it’s much more than that”. If cycling isn’t living and dying, then what on earth are you doing there?

The trouble seems to be for many people when they quit that they just don’t know what they are doing anywhere. I am sure somewhere there must be a statistic on the divorce rate amongst newly retired cyclists, and there is probably a nice correlation to the numbers of years you spend on the job. It is staggering just how many of the homes that riders spend their time dreaming of returning to, fall to pieces as soon as they are actually living there full time. Unlike joining the mob, you can get out of it while your alive, what you might not be able to do is get out with your life in tact.

I have to admit; it is pretty easy now though, as it’s winter and there is no competition for me to be missing. Only a fool would miss the time of year that as a rider I couldn’t stand.

I haven’t actually faced a winter in quite a while, I’ve run as far as I could from the cold dark days that I used to ride around swearing at when I was a kid in Cornwall. The thing I have noticed though is, the weather really doesn’t mean that much to me anymore.

For over ten years it was my prime concern each morning, the day began there. The assessments of the kit I was going to have to wear, which direction I would be going in, and on the rare occasion, whether or not I would be going to work that day.

These day’s I’ve been just as busy and probably twice as productive. But the weather makes not one iota of difference to my life. I have realised that without going out on your bike, most people’s exposure to the elements is sadly limited.

I’ve been doing a bit of office-based freelance for an experiment. I walk down past my grandfather’s house to the train station each morning. It’s about twenty minutes from my house. It is the main line between my town and the nearest big city- Bristol. The station is packed at 8 am every morning, but I think I’m the only one who gets there on foot. Most people are dropped off like little kids going to school.

I am not really a fan of the cold. Anyone who has stood near me on a start line at a race in below ten degrees can probably attest to that. It really helped me to verbalise what I was going through on those freezing start-lines.

It can admittedly be cold while I wait for the train, but that is it. I know the train is coming. That is as hard as it gets. I’m not 40 miles from home watching the skies darken, with the blood fully retreated from the tips of my fingers, my fuel supplies dwindling, and my only possible mode of transport to get home being a bicycle.

It almost seems like fucking madness now. I used to place myself almost daily at the mercy of the winds, with nothing more than a rain cape as insurance. Now, it is the man made weather of editors, politics, economics and the crappy rail network that I throw myself to the mercy of. I have to admit, that while it is good to only have to look at the weather out of a window, it just isn’t the same.

I do of course still ride a bike as often as I can; it is a shit load of fun when you are doing it because you want to. The only problem being that my body seems to have wilfully forgotten the tens of thousands of kilometres that I have previously pushed it through. It seems almost ridiculous to me that only a few months ago I could actually go and compete in bicycle races. I struggled through 85km this morning, not even a half day.

So while my mind is happy to remember, my body that was to be fair, doing all the hard work, seems to hell bent on forgetting all about it. Fat chance I'll let it though.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Retirement 2.0

After 17 years of bike racing I am very happy to announce that I will be officially putting my racing days behind me at the end of the 2011 season. My last competitive outing will be the Ritchey Oktoberfest 8-hour endurance Mountain bike relay event in Bristol on October the 15th. I would have loved to finish on the road at the Sun Tour, but the opportunity wasn’t there, the way that this event is run though will mean I can compete in a team with my good mates: Simon Richardson, Jonathan Tiernan-Locke and Zak Dempster.

I have seen cycling change a phenomenal amount in the time that I have been involved, not just within this country, but also within the sport as a whole. Like seeing a photo of someone close to you and suddenly realising that they’ve aged, often in cycling you can be too close to the sport to see how the differences have begun to add up.

When I began racing I dreamt of being World Road Race Champion, I didn’t ever get to be, not many do, however I did at least get to line up and try for it on six occasions. Even the start line of the World Championships can be a long, long way from Penzance, Cornwall.

I have had a remarkable time, met some extraordinary people, as well as some fairly ordinary people who could do extraordinary things. I have learned a few languages, been around the world plenty of times, I have raced some of the truly great bike races, and seemingly all of the very, very bad ones. I have come out of it with much more than I went in, which is fairly rare for me.

I would consider that I had a career of two halves. The first half went pretty much as planned on the bike and those successes mean a lot to me. But the second half was a lot nicer, and allowed me to do things on the terms that I wanted, without having to deal with the evil, corrupt, shameless mothers who put me off doing what I loved the first time round.

I was fortunate to have been in some great teams, on both sides of my 2006 ‘half time’, and I considered Rapha Condor Sharp a real gem. John’s teams are always excellent, and I got to line this one with people I actually consider friends; something I know is actually a real rarity in this sport, despite all the PR bullshit that says otherwise.

In June I finally knew that knew this would be my last season racing. The fat lady was waiting for me at the Boucles de Mayenne and her rehearsals have been getting louder and louder ever since. The good news is she has quite a voice.

I have been studying for my Masters in Professional Writing since last January and as that is due to be finished in the New Year, the timing compounded the fact that I think now is the right time to stop. I consider myself incredibly lucky (I always have) to have found something else that I am passionate enough about to conceivably be able to keep squeezing life on my terms out of it. I am really looking forward it.

I also of course have a few thank-yous to put out there; Gary Dowdell, Mike & Pat Taylor, John Herety, Theo Hartogs, all cornerstones of my eleven years spent racing full time. There are many more people who I will take the time to thank too, but of course I wouldn’t have gotten past the Tamar River without an enormous amount of help and support from my family. In particular my old man, who I began the adventure with, driving the length and breadth of the country to get to races all those years ago, and who, more than anyone helped shape the imagination that allowed me to conjure those dreams up to begin with.

Thanks all. It’s been quite a time.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

"I have baggage".

I was just about to start to write up an article for the team site on the inside of a suitcase of a pro rider getting ready to go to the Tour of Britain. I hear lists are the way, "people love lists" I'm told, and to be honest the only experience I have had with lists lately was the Rapha 'jersey pocket' stuff, which was a lot of fun. Maybe it is because bike riders love quantifying things; hours in the saddle, minutes at threshold, average wattage, kilometres to go. It is quantities we live by. 

However, this 'Munning about' style list isn't really quantity at all, more quality. For the second time in my life I am going to go and work on a bike race and not compete in it. Last year with my recovering elbow I played Assistant DS at the Tour of Britain, this year I am slipping into my covert role as press officer for RCS. It should be cool, I have seen the hotel list and as always the Tour of Britain has come up with the goods. So before I unleash the contents of a bike riders suitcase on the world, (coming soon to the team site) here is what any self respecting Press Officer takes on tour. 

 Elsie by The Horrible Crowes.

I can't recommend this record enough. It's just great. Brian Fallon is one of the best performers out there at the moment. I purchased the blood red vinyl the other day, but won't be dragging that about - I have the digital download ready to roll on my Ipod. (Don't steal music).

As recommended by Jasper Credland, a man of taste - Straight Life, by Art and Laurie Pepper, is a heavy book. I am about a third in and I hate the guy. His unremorseful account of his life so far, including his herion addiction and weird sexual desires is gripping stuff. Worth it for his rant on page 85 alone.
 A good hat.
 Series of short stories by Theodore Sturgeon. Sturgeon was the science fiction writer that Kurt Vonnegut based his recurring character 'Kilgore Trout' on. These are quite cool, they have that same human element that defines a lot of Vonnegut's work.
 Notebooks for obvious reasons. I have also started to use a pencil to write. They are great, I always figured that you couldn't take a pencil seriously because you used them at primary school and part of growing up and going to secondary school was using a pen.
The wonder that is 30 Rock. I love this show. I love Tina Fey for making it happen. I often miss these characters when I have watched a few episodes and I turn off the TV. Sounds very sad - but for the record, my girlfriend feels the same way too. Maybe we both have problems.

I owe the copywrite of this blog post to Munners - I tried doing it his way, but it still ended up with a lot of words. 

Sunday, 4 September 2011

12.6 Miles from Glastonbury. September.

God-damn Europeans,
Take me back to beautiful England,
And the grey damp filthiness of ages
and battered books                                 - PJ Harvey

There is something so comforting to me about the English damp. Damp isn't cold when you ride your bike. It is mystifying. It makes everything look a little out of time. Rides alone in the damp take me back to my youth on the roads of England. All the world is green. The moisture mixes with my sweat and rolls onto my lips as I ride through the still air. Sweat and precipitation tastes like training, and it tastes like England. 

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Writing / mother up a ladder.

I write quite a bit these days for various projects, websites and publications. It’s great, I absolutely love it. The only problem that occurs is, just like when you start riding your bike for a living, I get less and less time to write things just for pleasure. This blog sadly falls into this overlooked category. I love this space because I can write whatever I want, as long as I consider it worth someone else reading.

Lately I’ve been writing more than ever. It’s like anything, the more you do it the better you get. My brain, that hadn’t yet turned flabby but certainly lacked a little definition after years of only having to activate the relevant motor neurons needed to push pedals, has probably never been in such good shape.

My cyclist’s routine has admittedly gone out of the window. I simply find it really hard to do two things well. Bike riding demands that you get up early, fresh and ready to push yourself, then that you spend your afternoons in a fuggy haze of fatigue. Writing wants the opposite of you, I sit down at my desk and lose all track of time, mealtimes pass by unchecked – an unthinkable concept for an athlete, and it is often late into the night that I finally decide that I’m not making any improvements to my arrangements of words.

They are not exactly mutually exclusive; in fact I find that cycling promotes neural activity. The trouble being that it is hard to train at present, as I keep having to stop every fifteen minutes to make a note of something on my iPhone. That is not in the training handbooks. But I know that I will forget that thought if I don’t get it down right there and then.

I have to admit writing is winning this tug of war for my concentration, in part due to the winding down of the racing season for us, and in part for the fact I am finally well underway with writing my book.

Writing a book has been something that I’ve never wanted to do, because it always seemed like an unfathomably enormous task, and it really is. However I do love doing it. The parameters of my working world are now so much smaller than they ever have been, no longer the open road but either my study or the room that I converted into a blackboard so I could see what I am thinking about (as well as transcribe all the handy sentences I create on my rides as soon as I get in the door).

It’s a great experience, if a little isolating. But then Isolation is the gift.

Anyway it’s nice to come back and have some time to write about whatever I want, and here it is:

I really dislike the way health and safety has gotten so out of control. I feel very strongly that individuals should take responsibility for themselves. There seems to be this weird climate of fear now that dictates you can’t even look at a photo of someone smoking, mention that you ride with headphones, or go out in black cycling kit without someone chastising you for endangering yourself. I don’t do all these things, nor do I recommend them, but I would like it to be my choice not to do them. It makes me feel human.

So it was cool the other day when I went to see my Mum’s student's textile show up in London. I hung around after the show to help take the stand down, and at some stage heard gasps and exclamations of horror coming from the group of hi-vis vest wearing students that were helping mum dismantle a scaffold. It turned out she had climbed a ladder all by herself (something I found out later, she was forced to take a course in before being allowed). The students simply couldn’t believe their lecturer, all 5ft 8 of her, was all the way up a stepladder on her own.

You would have thought she was teetering on a window ledge half way up a skyscraper.

Looking down from the top my mum just casually bollocked them all for making a fuss, saying “don’t be so bloody ridiculous, IT’S A LADDER”. I laughed; she had a point. My mum is very cool.

That’s all.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Sweet Kernow

As someone who’s working days are defined by the lengths of tarmac that stretch out ever before me, it seems only natural that my favorite place on earth isn’t a beach, or a romantic viewing spot on top of a hill; it is in fact a stretch of road.

As anyone who knows me might know, I love the coast road between Lands End and St.Ives. The views across the sea and the rugged coastline were an incredible backdrop to a youth spent aspiring away as fast as my skinny legs could allow.

There was no way I appreciated it then, as any kid with dreams would agree – it doesn’t matter the backdrop when your young you still end up dreaming of being anywhere but where you are.

These days though, I appreciate more and more just how great this place is, and instead seem to now spend my days dreaming myself back there as often as possible.

Thoughts of this particular place were stirred recently when the Rapha Condor club rode the Cornish Coast in my absence in early Feb.

It really bothered me that I was unable to be there when a group of riders had come so far to experience, not just my favourite training loop, but to pass that sacred point just outside of Eagles Nest. The three or four hundred metre stretch between the tops of two small hills is the exact spot that I would call my very favourite place on earth.

As I write though I have just had the pleasure of retracing this route once again on my return from six months in Australia. Under a mild April sun, and next to a perfectly calm ocean, I was very happy indeed to be back dreaming away on that particular stretch of grey tarmac.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Saddling up.

For as long as I can remember I have led something of a nomadic lifestyle. I can’t tell now whether that is a result of the cycling, or the cycling is just a handy way for me to be able to live like this.

I spent my first summer away from home racing at 16. I realised pretty quickly that that the only way to really get ahead in the sport was to be in Europe, so I headed straight to Holland for three months literally the day after finishing my high school exams. Unchartered territory it may have been, although looking back now it was a fairly tame experience.

Since then I have not managed to spend a single 12 months in one place, travelling and living between Australia, France, Italy, Holland and the UK. I find myself at once a restless soul, yet utterly content in whatever surroundings I find myself.

For the last five months I have been fairly still, yet utterly content here in Melbourne. My wanderings have only taking me as far as Mt Dandenong, or Healsville, but I don’t think I had a dull day, nor the itch to leave.

Once again though the time has come to move on: back to Bristol and more importantly back to the bike races. Bristol is of course a great city, and now the home of several of Rapha Condor Sharp’s international imports, and seeing as I have to now wear full finger gloves to go riding here, I think it is high time I returned.

To be honest I can’t wait, not least for the fact that I will be able to get replies for my emails the same day that I send them, time zones (and my dislike for working past 8pm) play havoc when you are trying to complete an MA via correspondence.

However Melbourne and all its fantastic contents will be missed. I have discovered yet more to this truly amazing city over the summer period, and for this many thanks have to go out to Jarred Lory Smith and the Stay True/Soul Devotion crew. The most hospitable bunch of fellows I could have wanted to meet over here, and of course to Mal at Northside Wheelers, who’s shop keeps reminding me that I really have to write this book

Until we meet again.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Munning about

I went 'Munning about' too today. On roads that used to be familiar but, that in the absence of my two training partners from the North Western suburbs, Casey Munro and Mitch Docker, have become a rare treat indeed.

It was a good ride, and to be honest I don't have much to say about it, apart from the fact that autumn can really be a nice time of year around these parts.

Oh and that this is I think my favourite road name amongst a plethora of odd and often repetitive road names that you find out in Australia.

I actually wanted to photograph this sign a long time ago as the NO THROUGH ROAD sign was dangling at a perfectly dishevelled angle that made for a cool shot. As always though when training alone I was reluctant to stop and get the phone out to capture said image, so I kept leaving it. Then today I was of course so startled to find the sign fixed that I made myself stop and take the picture.

WILD DOG CREEK - it's all in the name.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Well cobble me..

As I may previously have mentioned, I do love this city. I consider myself pretty lucky to spend roughly half my time (and all of my off season time) in Melbourne Australia. It just seems to have it all, and as much as I try to explore the place there always seems to be more to find, do and experience.

Aside from the cafes, the bars, the rooftop cinemas, the laneways and streets that make up my experience of this city, there seems to be so much more to be found. I am a particularly bad explorer when left to my own devices, but I do have a penchant for being led to some great places, and on some interesting journeys.

I happened to be lucky enough recently, to have had the call answered to experience Melbourne.. or Melburn as she is now known, in all it's cobbled glory. In the company of two great explorers - my main man and fellow Glowing Young Ruffian Munners and Andy from the great Fyxomatosis, who joined me for a day of alley bashing along the route of the Melburn Roobaix event that I will one day take part in (see the non-race race calendar).

What a jolly time we had, I have no idea how Andy finds these roads - admittedly some of the harder ones are used every year for the event, but most of the fun it has to be said, is finding your way about the route. Checking for painted arrows on the roads, and turning left at the same time as the guy who knows where he is going.

Here is a rather cool set of pics, that featured on fyxomatosis, of the day.

Thanks Chaps.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

T x >ƒ = V but does V = F?

There are many useless myths that float aimlessly around the cycling world and, to be honest, I kind of like it. It reminds me of the arcane world that cycling used to be, and just how gullible and how much I wanted to be a bike rider, that these little myths could actually dictate my lifestyle and thoughts for so many years.

Even back in my impressionable late teens and early twenties I knew that some of these myths were absolute rubbish, but I’m not going to write a blog busting them all right now. You can work them out for yourselves, that’s where the fun is after all.

There was one myth though, that I will admit, did indeed suck me right in. It was that ever so enticing, and curiously believable equation: Veins = Form.

In my first year on the national team I remember being told by a slightly older (and therefore influential) rider, that Charly Wegelius always knew when he was going well because he could see the veins in his stomach.

Like an idiot, I then spent years looking desperately for veins, in my legs, in my stomach, anywhere. Sitting in hotel rooms in my underpants with the heater on full, waiting in a state of desperate dehydration until that magical form that was going to get me a contract with Mapei would spring forth like a road map from my thighs.

Just like that elusive Mapei contract, those coveted veins never did arrive. No matter how well I actually went I just wouldn’t see a vein. So I gave up the hunt, got my head down and eventually found my way in the cycling world.

Now lately something funny has happened. I have found myself arriving into the new cycling season in possibly the worst form of my life; I can barely get out of my own way at the moment, I struggle in club races and my legs just seem to hurt this is, without wanting to sound too much like a wanker – a bit of a new phenomenon for me.

Seriously not being sure of your form is a nightmare at this time of year. It feels like I’m stuck in that lane of non-moving cars in the middle of the motorway, unable to pull out and get going because the cars are flying by too fast. Desperately searching for the gaps and hovering indecisively over the accelerator just isn’t good. It’s frustrating, and it’s just not fun.

What I am hinting at is that I am acutely aware of my potential inability to make a bike go fast for minimal effort, or if you want to look at it with an alternate perspective – it takes a lot of effort just to make my bike go slowly, and yet, my legs look like this:

Go and ahem… Figure…

Thursday, 3 March 2011

My sentiments exactly.

It seems funny to me how my interest in cycling seems to be receding back into fandom. I have for many years rejected and point blank refused the idea of being a ‘fan’ of cycling.

Part of it, I admit was a need to be ‘cool’, as I was suddenly working alongside the men I had once put pictures of on my wall. Obsessing over the details of races that I wasn’t in – no longer seemed the thing to do.

Another part of it was that these ‘heroes’ I was suddenly rubbing shoulders with would often put me in the ditch, yell at me and anyone around them who they didn’t know and felt the need to intimidate, and generally behave like the arrogant arseholes that they were.

Sometimes it was even worse and they wouldn’t do any of these things, they would just show themselves to be completely normal blokes, something as a fan you can’t get your head around. I mean there must be something special about these guys (they can ride bikes fast, that is it, trust me).

So maybe it is a sign of my changing aspirations as a rider as I enter the twilight of my career, that when I read an article on cyclingnews the other day, I found myself doing so through the eyes of a fan again.

It was an article on Yoann Offredo – I tweeted it, as it was great, a really honest reflection of a young man cutting his teeth in the pro ranks. I liked it, and it got me thinking about how, if I were a fan of cycling, and any team in particular it would have to be Marc Madiot’s FDJ team.

In a world where personality is being sucked out through the PR machine and spat out as gormless corporate spiel, designed to tick boxes for sponsors instead of letting the opinions and thoughts of the actual athletes get out, it is refreshing to read about Madiot’s clan every now and again.

Here is a guy who runs his team the way he wants to, and has done for a while. A guy who claimed to sign Sandy Casar because of how aggressive the constantans in his name made him sound. A guy who openly purported to run a clean team (I think this is an impossible claim) long before it became quite so ‘in-vogue’. A guy who gets genuinely gets excited when his team wins stages of Paris Nice. Also a guy who, despite the pressure, actually stands up for banning race radios.

Now I’m sure Madiot has his faults, I think that Paul Kimmage in particular may feel a little put out by his anti-doping talks after the treatment that he gave Kimmage in A Rough Ride. It was Madiot’s comments after all that landed Bassons in such hot water with Lance Armstrong in 2009. Worst of all he also failed to sign me in 2003; something I’m working on forgiving him for.

Some faults though, in my mind, are good. They can be the spark that sets the flame of debate, disappointment and support. All the things that if I am going to actually become a fan of this sport again, I will really need.

Monday, 28 February 2011

So you wanna be a gunslinger?

I was an aspiring young bike rider once, believe it or not. It is strange to look back and think about some of the things that I did on the road to becoming a professional bike rider.

There are no guaranteed paths to success; there is nothing specific you can do – apart from hard work I suppose. Each and every Pro-rider I know found their way into the peleton in a different way; different training, different methods, different successes and different failures.

One thing was consistent though; each and every single young man I know and knew (even the young man that was myself) that has made it to the paid ranks, at some stage took a chance, because they really wanted it.

The chances taken were all different, it might have been as simple as going in a break that somehow paid off, it might have been moving to a country where they didn’t speak the language knew not a soul. It might have been leaving behind that girl that just wasn’t right.

Anyway, the other day I was sat in a bookshop with my girlfriend, leafing through some poetry books trying to find a suitable poem for her to read at her friends wedding. I of course had managed to find the least useful book on the shelf (it had a poem titled – ‘to the whore who stole my poems’, intriguing- but not matrimony material).

It was of course a book of the poems of Charles Bukowski, and I was taken by some of the material. So much so that I went straight up and purchased the book – despite my girlfriends derision (neither of us actually like poetry).

Then when I got home, I found the following, and it’s just brilliant. So I had to find a way to make it relevant and sneak it into my blog, and well – I just did.

For anyone who is aspiring, or even ever aspired, ‘all the way, all the way’:

Roll the Dice

by Charles Bukowski

if you’re going to try, go all the


otherwise, don’t even start.

if you’re going to try, go all the

way. this could mean losing girlfriends,

wives, relatives, jobs and

maybe your mind.

go all the way.

it could mean not eating for 3 or

4 days.

it could mean freezing on a

park bench.

it could mean jail,

it could mean derision,



isolation is the gift,

all the others are a test of your

endurance, of

how much you really want to

do it.

and you’ll do it

despite rejection and the

worst odds

and it will be better than

anything else

you can imagine.

if you’re going to try,

go all the way.

there is no other feeling like


you will be alone with the


and the nights will flame with


do it, do it, do it.

do it.

all the way

all the way.

you will ride life straight to

perfect laughter,

it’s the only good fight

there is.

Monday, 17 January 2011

The Race, Race, Race Calendar.

Now I’m in no condition to really comment, but I am going to anyway. By this I do not mean that I am in any way inebriated, I have just popped the cap on my first imported beer of the evening, and I dare say it will be the one and only tonight. I am in fact talking about my fitness levels; they are just ok, but not startling; normal I would of thought for this time of year, but nowhere near good enough it seems.

You see, I have to say; things really seem to be changing, the season really truly has begun. People are already going very fast in search of the publicity that their multi-million dollar team sponsors are paying for. It might be January the 17th (probably the 18th, by the time I finish this) but it is on.

This isn’t in itself that surprising; the writing has been on the wall a while. Ten to fifteen years ago a cheeky chappie called Francesco Cabello of the very cool (read bad-assed) Kelme team, changed the game of pro cycling just a little bit. He became the only ever specialist at the previously unheralded Trofeo Mallorca, and slowly inched the parameters of the cycling season, and indeed the cycling world, a little closer to the end of the previous year.

Cabello was a pretty decent rider, who under normal circumstances would have won the odd race here and there, but instead decided he would focus his entire season on the early season races. He would have made a good card player Cabello, because he had simply worked out the odds, he was in the publicity game and he wanted to make sure he would get his.

Races such as Trofeo Mallorca, Luis Puig, and the Ruta Del Sol, had been traditionally pretty laid back ‘training’ races of little importance. However with the modern media beginning its snowball towards the Twittering, jabbering, insatiable, instantaneous beast that it has become, there was an increasing focus on these races. The value of these races, in column inches, photographs and public interest was in fact greater than the worth they had as races.

Winning here was the equivalent of winning a sprint up a mountain on a training camp, and getting put on the cover of a magazine for it.

Cabello would go to altitude in November and December to be ready for these early races, so he clearly wasn’t quite right, but he certainly started something.

Fast forward a few years and I have recently competed in the most fiercely competitive Bay Criterium series anyone has ever known. The absolute cream of Australian cycling took part in the series, as well as a full squad from team Sky.

Team Sky’s presence was interesting, not because they have several Australians on board, but because it costs $10,000 to put a team in the Bay Crits. While other pro riders were happy to be farmed off into the usual composite teams, Sky had clearly looked to the event to garner at least $10,000 worth of publicity by having their own team in the event.

This would suggest that a win in the Bay Crits would have a value in monetary terms, perhaps beyond that of its actual cycling merit – remember these races are not UCI events, they actually pay as little as $350 per win. The series was previously more about appearance fees and a little intensity for the international pros with a little bit of big time excitement for the locals.

Even for the team with the biggest budget in the world, you have to account for every penny, and every effort should be made when that money is spent. Having seen quite how fit some of the Sky riders were looking prior to the event – which starts on the slightly uncomfortably early (at least if you like to enjoy your New Years) date of the 2nd of January.

So what next? If no quarter is given even in races that begin on the second day of the new season, then riders are going to have to start doing preparation races for the preparation races.

Interestingly there is already a criterium series in New South Wales in early December. I don’t think it will be too long before anyone serious about getting their head start at the Bay Crits will be racing these pretty seriously too. They are less than a month apart and crucially of course, get pictures up on

So this year I might stop racing in May, have a break and get ready for starting my next season in September race through December and Jan, take Feb easy and then get ready for Summer again.

O.k. So there is no way I will do this, I lack the inclination more than anything else, but lo and behold: The 12 month racing season is upon us.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Better By Design

I like my teammates. It’s a funny thing the team dynamic, and it is almost impossible to get completely right. There will always be characters that clash, and some egos that are destined to bruise others.

I have to confess to being as bad as anyone else when I think of the harmless things that my team mates can do that for no reason annoy me, or the way I can pick holes in another riders ideas on preparation or race tactics. It’s a professional sport after all; we are all monsters to some degree.

So it was refreshing the other day to be able to think about my teammates outside of the confines of a race or team environment. Part by accident, part by design, I got a glimpse of each and every one of the Rapha Condor Sharp team for 2011 the other day, and I quite liked what I found.

In one of my first tasks as Press Officer for the team this year I had come up with an idea to make more interesting, the usually quite dull, ‘Rider Profiles’ on the team site.

I had been flicking through my sometime well of creative stimulation (courtesy of the ever cool Ms Diana Downs), a book called ‘The Art of Looking Sideways’, when I came across a profile the author Alan Fletcher, had come up with for the Swiss designer Jean Robert.

Apparently Fletcher had been commissioned to write a profile on Robert but had no idea whatsoever as to who Robert was, nor anything about the man. So he simply sent Robert a message simply saying: “Tell me what you like” and Robert’s response was a breathless list of the things that he felt passionate about (printed on page 330, of the book if anyone is interested).

This list was so interesting, in Fletcher’s eyes, that it simply became the profile, and it works marvellously. Better than knowing where the man studied, or a detailed history of his achievements (available anywhere), the profile is actually a very detailed and revealing look into the man himself. Like all the best things in life, it is brilliant because of its simplicity.

I, being the great artist that I am*, then pinched this idea for our own team site. Profiling 13 guys who you may have very little interest in, or may have spent very little time with, can be quite hard. I was also keen to avoid the formulaic pap that most sites churn out, detailing weight and ambitions for the upcoming year can get a little tiring.

So I made the boys do the work themselves, and it makes for highly interesting reading. Seeing what we mostly all have in common (the most common liked thing: girls, followed in equal measure by sunrises and sunsets) and the things that make each one of us a three dimensional human being (Jon Tiernan-Locke likes Guide dogs; who would have thought it?).

I had quite a bit of fun reading these, less so sorting out the punctuation (anyone with even half an idea of what it is to punctuate will know how bad I am at this). But it is good to know that you actually like the blokes you are about to have to share all the good, and all the bad, of a racing season with.

The team profiles will be up on the 2011 team site after the official press launch at the end of January.