so several thousand cyclists took part in l'etape de tour during this year's event, the fastest finishing the course well over an hour down on the slowest of le tour competitors. if this many folks took part and, we are led to believe, many more would have liked to but didn't apply in time, then it must be pretty common fare. on islay, we held the gran fondo bruichladdich on august 3rd and only four of us started (and only three finished - we could use this statistic to prove how uncompromisingly hard the gran fondo is, with a failure rate of 25%. but if truth were told, the guy who failed to finish was on a mountain bike, carrying a rucksack and wasn't the most regular cyclist in the world). so the gran fondo is definitely an elite event with those and only those taking part in its one hundred miles around islay's roads. and islay's distilleries.
this latter fact could be the marketing ploy to end all marketing ploys, since this year's route took us from the start outside bruichladdich distillery, over to ardbeg distillery, passing laphroaig and lagavulin on the way. granted it was a sunday and three of them weren't open, but this is cycling - no time for dramming. next year's route will deviate only slightly from this year's but will now go past bowmore distillery as well. (since islay's other two distilleries, caol ila and bunnahabhain are at the other end of the island, it is well nigh impossible to include them in a practical route).
if i haven't mentioned it before, ardbeg distillery has one of the finest tea/coffee stops this side of easter island at the old kiln cafe and made the ideal pit stop en route at just under half distance. since manager stuart and his mrs (visitor centre manageress) jackie live at the distillery, they were kind enough to let me leave a bag of powerbar goodies in their porch on saturday afternoon ready for re-stocking before departure.
why am i telling you all this? well, we figured it would be nice to expand the event slightly by having more folks join us for the 2004 gran fondo but wanted to explain about the organisation. basically, there isn't any and we don't really want to do any. things like frequent food and drink stops may well be well catered for in l'etape de tour, but my directeur sportif and i just want to ride our bikes and not sit up late into the evening making tasty sandwiches for the following day's pedalling. so if you'd like to join us next year, and you are more than welcome so to do, drop me an e-mail, but be aware that this is a throwback to the early days of le tour - you have to fend for yourselves.
in previous years the peloton has consisted of the two toms and myself and we commenced battle from outside the mactaggart leisure centre in bowmore. but this year, ella at bruichladdich distillery was kind enough to provide a miniature of 15 year old bruichladdich single malt for everyone completing the distance, hence the title change to gran fondo bruichladdich. this is very much in keeping with distance ride naming in europe where pretty much everything seems to be called 'gran fondo' something or other, though it has to be admitted that the european versions are a bit bumpier than ours. we pretty much only have the col de kilchiaran to contend with after about ninety miles or so (as the directeur sportif was wont to point out at the time). sadly one of the toms was unable to be realesed from the drudgery of his day job to join us this year, but the other tom was there as usual and the directeur sportif made his maiden gran fondo (finishing a darned sight fresher than the rest of us). since the object of the exercise is merely to complete the distance without worrying about how long it actually takes (just over six hours ride time, if you must know), because there are the occasional munch stops and the old kiln was frightfully busy on sunday 3rd and it took a while to be served the coffees. but always remember - this is islay and we have a reputation of not rushing to take care of.
so if you fancy swelling the numbers on relatively quiet and fairly flat roads for around one hundred miles, start the training soon and organise your accommodation and ferries even sooner. since this year's islay half-marathon (held the previous day) had an entry of 128, there is many a bed filled over the weekend. see if we can fill them with cyclists next year instead of runners, and i'll do what i can to get bruichladdich to come up with similar sponsorship in 2004. and if you're here over the weekend, you might as well stay for the monday and have a tour round one of the distilleries we pass on the way. it can be arranged.
this whole website got its name because scotland's graeme obree built his championship winning 'old faithful' using bits from a defunct washing machine. however, despite having had his troubles in ensuing years, graeme is now poised to make his comeback this september at the masters' track championships by riding the 3000m pursuit as well as a book about his career. considering the number of requests i have received over the years regarding graeme's training techniques (as if i'd know), i can only hope the book includes at least some of this information. and i hope he wins everything in sight.
on a slightly different note, my regular reader will have noted the addition of a 'colnago c40' rollover to the left. this contains a reprint of a recent article featured in cycle sport magazine, which they were very kind to let me present here (because i'm a colnago geek) i have also found an excellent review of the colnago c40hp here
i have been asked to add the following link to the post by wheelygoodcause. they're a cycling club dedicated to arranging epic rides for charity and do not charge charities for the pleasure. They ride because they want to. here's the link.
Remember, you can still read the review of 'the dancing chain' the utterly excellent book on the history of the derailleur bicycle by clicking here
any of the books reviewed on the washing machine post can probably be purchased from amazon.co.uk or amazon.com
as always, if you have any comments on this nonsense, please feel free to e-mail and thanks for reading.
this column almost never appears in the dead tree version of the ileach but appears, regular as clockwork on this website every two weeks. (ok so i lied) sometimes there are bits added in between times, but it all adds to the excitement.
on a completely unrelated topic, ie nothing to do with bicycles, every aspect of the washing machine post was created on apple macintosh powerbook g4, and imac computers, using adobe golive 6 and adobe photoshop 7. needless to say it is also best viewed on an apple macintosh computer.