les memoires du peloton

prendas calendar 2010

if truth be told, though we're now a reasonable distance into november, i'm really still back around mid to late may in terms of my appreciation of 2009. the giro and my memorable trip to portland are the two markers that defined the early part of my year, the problem being that the rest of the year then carried on without me. i'm using that as the reason why i think the tour de france failed to live up to expectations. granted, i do seem to be alone in this perception; it surely couldn't have been alberto? could it?

anyway, the dawning realisation that the year has but one month yet to go on 2009's calendars has been forcefully imposed by the appearance of trailers for next year's. that's sort of the mind-numbing part of the whole process, because if i've spent all this year trying to figure out which part of the year i'm in, as opposed to which part i'm supposed to be, prognostications for 2010 don't look good.

however, the blow has been softened by an e-mail from my enterprising friends at prendas ciclismo, containing the above sneak peek from their 2010 calendar.

if, as do i, you have a veritable panoply of monthly and weekly cycle magazines sprawled all around the armchair (one question - why do they all arrive at the same time each month?), it is likely that you'll have seen a sizeable proportion of the photographs filling many of their pages, tagged with the credit photosport international. founded in 1972, the firm is managed and owned by photographer john pierce, has archives of over 66,000 images and currently represents more than 28 photographers across the world. should you decide to put together twelve months and a cover for a cycling calendar worthy of a space on the wall, john pierce may just be the guy you'd want to be in touch with.

which is, of course, exactly what mick and andy have done for their 2010 calendar. i have enquired as to the price of this 'i gotta get me one of these' items to help figure out which month is which as we enter the last year of the decade:

'cost to be confirmed, but it will be christmas present friendly'.

pretty much all we wanted to hear. however, with such an excellent picture of robert millar for july 2010, perhaps i'll enjoy the tour a bit more next time round; the inspiration will be on the wall.

availability yet to be determined, but i'll let you know when it happens.

prendas ciclismo


posted tuesday 10 november 2009

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solo possum fur beanie

solo possum beanie

brushtail possums are sort of cute little furry animals that are indigenous to australia and new guinea, and can be roughly compared to the squirrel in terms of their place in society. they are nocturnal and generally considered to be pests in urban areas because of their predilection for vegetation and fruit. about 150 years ago, european settlers introduced them to new zealand with an eye on a burgeoning fur industry. unfortunately, as is often the case with so-called well meaning human intervention, the little blighters didn't take long to escape into the wild, procreating in a manner not dissimilar to that of rabbits. the 2009 estimate for the number of new zealand brushtail possums in the wild was close on 70 million.

a pest, though not entirely of its own doing.

brushtail possums have no natural predators in the wild and thus have proceeded to destroy vast areas of new zealand's native forests, eating around 21,000 tonnes of vegetation every evening. and you thought you were hungry. birdlife, including the kiwi, and many native tree species are now threatened with extinction. so before those of us who are identifiable tree-huggers get really upset that these cute and cuddlies are being shot, at least, if consolation is sought, their fur, which is similar in texture to that of mink, is being put to good use. though i'm not sure too many possums would totally agree.

solo possum beanie

paul mason at solo cyclewear in auckland has decided to utilise the outcome of all the foregoing to alloy a 60% possum fur mix with 40% merino, plop a peak on the front and provide us northerners with a more than adequate means of keeping head and ears warm this winter. and should you need a smidgeon more convincing as to the efficacy of this ploy, possum fur is one of only two natural fibres that doesn't freeze; the other one belongs to the polar bear, a fur that won't be appearing on a cycle cap anytime soon.

in appearance, the solo possum beanie looks a little like one of those mohair jumpers, with a myriad of little hairs scooting out in all directions. it's lovely and soft, fits under a helmet just dinky-doo, and has the distinct advantage of pulling down over the tops of your ears when it's cold. just like it is now. and yesterday too. the peak is well judged, since it's just a fine size to keep that low, watery sun from blinding the eyes when judging when to outjump cavendish. the back features what i now take to be a solo trademark red tab wrapping to the inside. one size fits all, and will likely fit me all winter. cost is £26 ($44).

solo cc twmp

posted monday 9 november 2009

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le col winter jacket and winter tights

le col clothing

motor racing drivers, at least those who dabble in the single seater variety, can virtually guarantee a high degree of comfort while seated in the car, hurtling about in pursuit of their chosen career. they can do this because they are seated in a bespoke chair, if it can be called such in the confines of such a small carbon enclosed space. it's all to do with polystyrene beads in a bag; plonking themselves down on a heap of the little white balls, while making themselves perfectly at home by way of several bum shuffling moments, the air is then removed from the bean bag until the shape of their posterior is retained for posterity. it is thereby a relatively simple process to mould some carbon into an exact replica. preferably one that fits in the fuselage.

we in the our more exposed and pro-active form of sport do not have the same luxury, at least not in the seating departmenet. a brooks leather saddle comes close, but over a considerably lengthier period of time; but despite the advent of titanium rails, such handcrafted english leather construction is yet deemed more grams than ultimately desirable for those intent on going fast. however, it's not the ultimate consideration for the competitive cyclist: what is, concerns the apparel worn while assuming the position. it cannot have escaped your attention that our bodies assume an entirely different posture when grasping lever hoods, or more aerodynamically, sleekly infused on the drops.

if we follow the logical steps that this implies, it makes a great deal of sense to appreciate that jerseys, shorts and tights that fit and appear sartorial when standing leaning on the counter ad debbie's, may exhibit the odd fluffle or two when in the aggressive pose midst two wheels. le col clothing, from the race tuned mind and design skill of yanto barker has incorporated this anomaly at base level.

le col clothing

cycling must be one of the most provided for sports in the world, at least that's the way it seems from within my ivory tower, particularly when it comes to riding apparel. with so many already clamouring for our pounds, dollars and euros, it's a brave step to decide to enter the fray, particularly in the upper atmosphere where the stakes are already high. the latest to ask for a place at the table is le col.

it's winter, or at least it is where i live, and thus the appropriate section of the cycling wardrobe has been organised to present access to clothing with the seasonal word in its title. the le col winter jacket is, in this case, the bees knees. it is, perhaps, worth pointing out that this is a jacket in the sense that we don't understand the word jacket. my comprehension would infer outerwear that could comfortably enclose baselayer and jersey underneath. however, jacket in this italian sense (yes, that's where it's made) plainly describes a stout, windproof and partially waterproof that can be worn over an appropriately fashioned baselayer. which is exactly what i did.

first wear is almost cause for concern, being that it exhibits just a hint of tightness across the chest; the race fit, and not a worry, even if you're not racing. the perforated textile covering around two thirds of the front and all of the fore facing portion of both arms is windproof and waterproof. remarkably so. the length of the arms is just ideal (medium tested), and the fit flaplessly excellent.

the application of the epithet winter has bearing on all aspects of the jacket: aside from the windproofing, it's warm and cosy inside, with a commendably high, fleece-lined and close fitting collar to keep speed imbued draughts at bay. the construction of the entire edifice looks as if it would vye with campagnolo's oft quoted reputation for being over built. every seam is triple stitched with a rather fetching gold thread; the le col name is gold embroidered on the leaft breast, while the stunningly excellent le col logo is also gold embroidered just below the rear of the collar, just under a white/gold/white tag that emulates (sort of) the italian flag.

le col clothing

stowage space is also well catered for, by way of three open rear pockets in the time honoured manner, and a cunningly concealed zipped pocket outboard of the centre, reflectively striped version (thank you yanto). tabbed all over the jacket are strips of gold coloured scotchlite, just to make sure you can be seen, despite the overall black theme. and just when you thought every nook and cranny had been utilised, there's another zipped internal pocket hidden inside of the main zip, behind the le col name. this latter would appear to be waterproof: i placed a tenner inside prior to scuttering about, a tenner that was still dry when home beckoned.

it's the main zip that gives me the most (superficial) cause for concern. all is themed in black and gold, generally a scheme that works very much to le col's advantage. and therefore a gold coloured full frontal zip would not seem out of context. but the gold colouring, in my opinion, doesn't quite work, the tag in particular slightly devaluing a reassuringly expensive looking item of winter apparel. shiny metal would have been more appropriate i feel. but its functionality cannot be denied.

for all its bells, whistles and promises, it would be worth less than a few buttons if it failed to live up to its billing, but confound me if it didn't exceed them. finding cold and/or wet weather this far out in the atlantic in november is hardly a struggle, and fending those off clad only in a thin jacket over a long sleeve baselayer seemed like folly of a fairly high order. however, ploughing about over ninety or so kilometres in cold and wet convinced otherwise. all that race fit nonsense makes a whole heap of sense when breathing heavily in the drops towards the spedding sprint at bruichladdich (even if i didn't cross the line first).

this must be how jenson button feels at work.

of course, in order to maintain that corporate image at all costs, the lower half should also be winter clad in le col, in this case in a pair of winter bib tights. these too follow the by now familiar le col style, with all seams triple gold stitched, and the name gold embroidered on your backside, just where your principal sponsor's logo would be if racing was the prime motive. the tights are fitted with a very effective and immensely comfortable chamois pad. while many of the latter accoutrements in shorts and tights are of multi-layered and varying densities of appropriately styled foam, the pad in the le col winter bib tights utilises gel injection, at least so one of the swing tags informs me. i can do no more than pass on the information that the shape and consistency does a marvellous job. my bum thanked me profusely.

le col clothing

in accordance with winter expectations, the tights are fleece lined but with a relatively high front bib panel bereft of a zip. this exhibits marginally more frontal comfort than those with zip, but it does make a call of nature a slightly gymnastic affair, though not completely out of the question. there's internal gloopy stuff at the bottom of the legs to ensure they don't ride up even during your more torrid moments, and similarly to the jacket, there are strategically placed gold scotchlite tabs for that all-important visibility. the jenson button effect is in full evidence here too; when standing up straight and to attention, the bibs feel as if they may not have been as generously proportioned as should have been the case. but you're not going to wear these round to the post office for a few stamps: they're cut to allow maximum comfort on skinny wheels and bendy bars, which is very much where they come into their own. and then some.

however, the test did involve sitting on a wooden chair supping a large mug of soya cappuccino, while demolishing an accompanying mini-biscuit with a colnago logo on the top (honestly - who'd have thought?). mission accomplished. and likewise when on the bicycle, where they were comfort and joy in a material sense, with no bunching, no chafing and one of the most comfortable comfy bits i have had the pleasure of sitting on.

if you're going to arrive unannounced at this level of sartorial impression, you need to hit the ground running. le col has managed this with personality to spare; a debut to be proud of.

the le col winter jacket is available in black only, in small, medium, large and extra large at a retail price of £159.99 ($266), while the winter bib tights can be had in the same sizes at a cost of £139.99 ($233). purchases can be made online at


posted sunday 8 november 2009

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good things our way come

in 1988, robert millar's experience of guzet neige was not so happy. well placed for another win, he approached the car park below the final kilometre in company with massimo ghirotto and philippe bouvatier. a gendarme stood at the entrance of the car park waving an indicating sign for the following cars to turn in. whether it was bouvatier's error or millar's, they both turned off the road as ghirotto swung left onto the final hairpin. millar clocked the mistake almost at once and set off after the italian at a furious rate. he crossed the line two seconds behind him and thumped his handlebars in an access of rage, disappointment and frustration. bouvatier trailed in 13 seconds down.*

pyrenees road climb

perhaps not robert's finest hour, but certainly a piece of cycling history; no matter that it involved the tour de france, the riders and their total involvement in the chase transcended all. in the heat of competition, mistakes are made: racing is everything, which, in an impropitious way, is tinged with sadness. the desire to win, to beat your fellow competitors is a grand ideal, and one for which many spend many, (too) many hours training to live as gladiators before their adoring and contentious public. sadness because of the amphitheatre in which they perform, whether france, italy or spain, which remains as a backdrop to the entertainment set in front of all. most never see any of it.

to those of us bound by mortality to the slopes and crevices, or more routinely to the comfy chair in front of eurosport, two thirds of the experience can be ours for the asking. whether from a hard won position midst the forest of motor homes, or simply deft use of the remote and the helicopter shot, the topography, contours and velocipedinal grappling can be switched at will. the third that is missing is the opportunity to do battle; to claw back centimetre after centimetre; to blow or jump spectacularly as the summit nears, or to sit midst the laughing group entreating the slog and the peaks to level, and the scrap for the green to rejoin.

it is unlikely that the thrill of competition midst the alps or pyrenees will be bestowed on the majority of us, and should we take a turn not strictly on the cue sheet, the consequences are unlikely to result in the despondency of an abused handlebar. however, this is no cause for anguish or regret, unless of course aggressive jostling for position and contravention of gravity is part and parcel of personal aspiration.


what if the traversing of such peaks and troughs were not to be made any easier than for those in the heat of competition, but at a more respectable pace, untrammeled by the need to gain valuable minutes or seconds? to enhance such cycling experience with time to appreciate the view, to grasp the severity of the gradient and to enjoy the cameraderie of the like-minded few? i apologise if this makes it sound as if this is an adventure recently discovered, and is written with no disrespect for those who feel they have already experienced the foregoing. it is entirely likely that such is indeed the case.

but as is often brought to our attention, europe has a long and illustrious cycling heritage, one that means a great deal to a great many, and one that can be interpreted, and has indeed been, in oh so many ways, perhaps most dramatically entirely in monochrome. in the days to follow this possibly rather idiosyncratic and cryptic post, the few will be offered the many: the opportunity to pedal long and hard, ascending and descending; the opportunity to both fear and enjoy every last kilometre. at day's end, comfort and joy before the opportunity to do it all again, brought to life by those who have promoted pain, suffering and pink for over half a decade.

i think you know exactly who i mean.

*opening paragraph excerpted from 'the great road climbs of the pyrenees' by graeme fife.


posted saturday 7 november 2009

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feet and mind games

embrocation socks

it's much more of a struggle than it really should be. with the prospect of a cycling trip abroad (to scotland) transpires, it's a necessary part of the racing cyclist's procedure to make sure that every last requirement is filling that colnago kit bag. this, in my case, requires a strenuous amount of mental dexterity bordering on mind games. start at the top: helmet, casquette and/or merino hat, neck-warmer, baselayer, jersey, waterproof rainjacket, gloves, bib threequarters, shoes, overshoes, and i'm absolutely sure that there's something missing.


oh you can laugh, but i know folks who have arrived at the appropriate venue from which cycling is due to proceed, but without a pair of cleated cycling shoes (mind you, i know a drummer who turned up at a gig without sticks, so i doubt this is proving anything). however, in this particular case, not only was the the mind switched on at the right time, but those very nice people at embrocation magazine had been kind enough to send a couple of pairs of logo'd cycling socks.

the man who has expanded the reach of embrocation (the magazine, not the hot stuff you put on your legs), jeremy dunn, is nothing if not confident in his own skin. and he is, apparently, more than comfortable in his own socks. not without good reason. made by swiftwick in brentwood, tennessee, this particular strain of sock comprises nylon, olefin (polypropylene) and lycra, yet they don't come across as synthetic as they sound. in the language of socks, these are of 200 needle construction, a tight knit, quality product with graduated compression ( a feature oft mentioned in training circles these days). however, i figure the very best bit is how well the embrocation coffee pot shows off when the socks are pulled up properly, a feature that will likely be one of the few, or only, that puts you in a similar troposphere as lance armstrong.

no, they have no athletic properties (at least none that i could discern), and they don't come with a ready signed contract with radio shack, but they are long. well, longer than the norm. as jeremy dunn bluntly put it "they're tall, because that's how we roll... deal with it. i'm not renowned, even in my own back garden, as a wearer of tall socks, but these look so darned good between the marresi's and the bottom of the bib threequarters, that dealing with it is something i am very happy to do.

and it's possible to roll in dark or light; the coffee pot is either blue on a white background, or white on blue. embrocation cycling journal is writ large atop either pair, and this can be worn as a badge of honour in the uk at least, where embrocation magazine is perhaps a tad less well known. a situation that will hopefully change sooner, rather than later. i was able to show these off around the shorter braveheart route last sunday (blue on white), and nobody took me to task for covering half my calves. and at the risk of ruining my self-proclaimed semantic prowess, i'd describe them as really, really nice. and comfy. and tall.

of course, there is no way that it is cool to wear a pair of embrocation socks without first having read, or owned, at least one copy of embrocation magazine. jeremy didn't tell me that, but it seems rather self-evident; we wouldn't want standards to slip, now would we?

both the magazine ($24) and the socks ($17.95) can be had from embrocation's online store. there will be some postage charges to this side of the pond, but some things are worth more than haggling over stamps.



posted friday 6 november 2009

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two timing

the wiggle brothers

believe it or not, i actually managed to pass my higher physics, and while this wasn't exactly yesterday, aside from particle physics and large hadron colliders,the laws are still immutable.


unfortunately, while at school, my velocipede du jour was a raleigh twenty; a modern (for the time) take on a shopping bike without the cachet of the fondly remembered rsw 16. not only was this used for transport, but also for delivering newspapers. it gives me no great credibility to admit that in those days, the notion that folks might ride entirely dissimilar machines for racing and time-trialling had not even gained a foothold in the psyche. so my physics higher was merely a surprise rather than something that had a future.

however, while based in physical fact, the fact that two people on one bike could likely move a smidgeon faster than only one, now seems sort of obvious. or at least obvious to some with competitive aspirations. it seems a mite unlikely that a bicycle for two - let's just say what i mean: a tandem - can be built to be as light as a bicycle meant for one. for starters, there's probably an entire book of uci regulations governing the minimum weight required, but it also seems just a wee bit obvious that if you stretch the standard bicycle frame, an uncomfortable amount of noodle will probably creep into the equation (physics again). let's face it, the stiffening of that drainpipe-like tube stretching from front to back is not going to make things much lighter, and positioning two blokes (in this case) atop this blunderbuss, makes for a not insubstantial amount of momentum that is likely to be conserved.

the monthlies and a plethora of training books will, of course, point out that whizzing ability is determined by power to weight ratio, more so when gravity kicks in on the hills. and unlike bobbing about on your own, in an almost similar manner to those two-person row boats, it's a necessity that both riders get their act together to avoid a mexican wave of opposing forces.

i don't know that it was described in quite that manner in physics class.

so why should we be concerned with the physics of riding a tandem? well, some of you who have too much time on your hands, and are frequenters of twitter, may have noticed an awful lot of cryptic posting going on in past months from sprintbuzzard and spokesmen, respectively jez hastings and david harmon of u2needyourheadsfixed fame. these twitters (never was there a more apt descriptor) concerned the advent of something labelled stp10, which at least one tweeter took to be seattle to portland. while that was rather a good guess, it was, in fact, nowhere near the scary truth.

the wiggle brothers

hastings and harmon are going to attempt several tandem records come 2010.

i don't have any clear insight into the origination of this madness, but based entirely on the fact that the two of them challenged each other to ride this year's london-paris on fixed gear bikes over coffee on a cross channel ferry, it isn't too much of a stretch of the imagination to figure this likely come about in a similar manner. the problem with such caffeinated challenges is that sooner, rather than later, reality bites, and if you're going to take it seriously, it bites rather hard. however, far from recommending a good psychiatrist, there are others in the bicycle industry who have the wherewithal and clout to egg the dynamic duo to heights undreamt of at the point of origin.

taking on what amounts to a serious challenge (several tandem records have stood for a good number of years and, to quote the mighty dave-t "there's a good reason for that") requires external assistance, and not just a small amount of cash. step up to the plate, britain's number one online cycle retailer, wiggle.

wiggle's input both from a financial and clothing point of view, has been accompanied by additional support from terry dolan, who is building a carbon fibre tandem (to aid that power to weight ratio, and get rid of the mexican wave) science in sport who will provide the sandwiches and soup, albeit in more scientific format, and bio racer who will outfit them in a set of natty threads pertaining to the task in hand. mechanics, coach, soigneur, and all the necessary publicity cogs and wheels are in place; all the wiggle brothers have to do is pedal.

and that's where part of the problem almost arose.

the wiggle brothers

in the days preceding this year's braveheart ride, messrs hastings and harmon deemed it a propitious idea to meet up in kilmarnock with the tandem used by james cracknell and rebecca romero on their unsuccessful attempt at a two-up end-to-end. this was the exact point when jez, and one or two others, discovered that eurosport's principal commentator had never actually ridden a tandem before. so at least, at that point, i was one up on david. professing that they were only attempting the shorter, 33km ride at braveheart, they actually rode the 70km route and survived to tell the tale. just ask sean kelly.

the official launch of stp10 as part of team wiggle will take place in january 2010; meanwhile both are flogging themselves silly in the winter wind and rain in an effort to leap tall buildings in a single bound. individually at present, but the time will come when david will have his face obliterated by jez' dhb jacket as they attempt to slipstream their way to success.

if you happen to see them on the road when things start to get serious, don't wave: it'll only encourage them.

photos: warren saunders

stp 10

posted thursday 5 november 2009

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cross dressing

astoria, oregon

having watched goodness knows how many episodes of star trek, the notion that the space -time continuum may be a tad thinner in some areas than others doesn't even seem like a bizarre thing to write or even say. however, perhaps the writers of star trek had dug further back in time for what could be reliably described, in modern sci-fi parlance as an anomaly, one more readily allied with hallowe'en. the ancient celts believed that on the occasion of the festival of samhain, the border between this world and the otherworld became thinner, thus allowing spirits to pass through to this side. these spooks could be friendly (casper?) or malevolent, though there is nothing to say whether mere mortals could pass through in the opposite direction.

however, these ancient celts believed that, to ward off the less friendly spirits making the homeward trip, wearing costumes or masks was the very ticket. this would trick the real malevolent spirits into thinking they were with kith and kin, thus wandering off to find someone else to scare the living daylights out of. it doesn't take too much lateral thinking to make the connection between this ancient ritual, and the modern day guising or trick or treating. and given the mentality that pervades certain sections of the cycling community, it doesn't seem too strange that the excitement of an ancient celtic festival could be logically transferred to a whizz round mud and obstacles: halloween cyclocross.

such a ploy has become almost its very own ritual in oregon's back yard for quite a number of years, 2009 being no exception. the mud and madness took place as a part of oregon's cross crusade series at the clatsop county fairgrounds in astoria where the racing was serious enough, but the attire sported by a considerable number of competitors considerably less so (see above). having come across photos of this madness and mayhem in dirty pictures from pdxcross, fun has a capital 'f'.

rollapaluza, muddy hell

happily, this hallowe'en past, it seems that the stiff upper lip often attributed to the brits has been brought to trial by those fine fellows at rollapaluza. branching out from their staple diet of roller racing, they organised a hallowe'en race at herne hill last saturday which not only acquired the necessary trappings of the traditional guisers, but had the added bonus of taking place in the dark, and running through the middle of the beer tent. bordering the days when all seems overly concerned with who's going to ride for team sky, and where next year's major tours will ply their trade, it is heartening to find mud, obstacles and temporary insanity alive and well, and living on two muddy 700c wheels near you.

you can see more from this mayhem, including a few videos, on the rollapaluza website, and it is pertinent to point out that prizes for having this much fun were generously provided by jos at tour de ville.

and while we find ourselves concerned with the offroad world of narrow knobblies, you may remember i made allusion to the next cyclocross movie to come from the camera of brian vernor, he of pure sweet hell fame, entitled the cyclocross meeting. this movie will see its world premiere on december 12th, at the tower theatre in bend, oregon. sadly that's just a few thousand kilometres out of my way, so i will be unable to attend; but if it's in your neighbourhood, you can order tickets right here. in case ye of little faith aren't sure whether it's a movie you're going to like, i have arranged a short preview just below.


top photo courtesy pdxcross | rollapaluza photo copyright Lee Irvine,


posted wednesday 4 november 2009

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chris hoy - the autobiography. harper collins, hardback, 306pp illus. £18.99

chris hoy the autobiography

i am currently reading a copy (for review in an entirely different publication) of the leper's bell by norman maclean, a distinctly scottish entertainer whose life places an entirely different perspective on the aspect of health than does that of his scottish compatriot, sir chris hoy. however, mr maclean was born in 1937, some 72 years ago, which almost by definition, gives him a great deal more living to describe than does that of mr hoy, who is exactly half his age. at one time, an autobiography was something to be stored in the grey matter or a large brown suitcase under the bed, for release to the general public when the author was past the age of taunts about those embarrassing events of childhood or early teens. no more is that the case, it would seem.

robert millar remained hidden from view for almost 45 years before richard moore had the perspicacity to celebrate his life and career by way of the written word, something that contrasts drastically with the publication of scots tennis player, andy murray's autobiography at the age of 21. it is hard to accept this necessity to rush into print while a star is still shining, because it has the slightly bitter taste of lucre about it. granted, as sir chris is wont to point out in this book, he and others in a similar position, will not be able to command their current income forever: remuneration depends on sporting success, something that has a niggling habit of decreasing a lot more quickly than it arrived. robert millar was once quoted as saying that past the age of thirty, he had to train twice as hard just to stay at the same level.

in this light, it's difficult to criticise chris hoy's need or right to put his life in words, despite it being only a couple of years since the publication of the aforementioned mr moore's heroes, villains and velodromes a large chunk of which concerned itself with the life and times of chris hoy, a book that was even updated to take account of the medal success in beijing. while reading chris hoy, the autobiography there was always that parrot on the shoulder reminding that the butler did it; the bit at the end would be about beijing, knighthood, and crashing. no suprise there.

however, in much the same way that i can watch star wars episodes four, five and six as often as you like (and mrs washingmachinepost likewise with the wizard of oz) even though i must have watched them several dozen times already, the rise and rise of sir chris hoy is a story that bears several repeats, especially if one has tartan in one's veins. reviewing books can be either a joy or a travail, depending on the skills of the author, and the hand of mr moore can be detected here (he is credited for his assistance in the acknowledgments at the back): very much a good thing. the book is well-paced, well written and very easy to read, and while there are no startling confessions or skeletons leaping out of closets, chris comes across as the down to earth character he still is behind the wall of agents, managers and other diversionary tactics.

the man is not short of a sense of humour either:

'my mum then met my dad, to whom she was introduced by mutual friends. but when they began going out... she still lived in glasgow, he in edinburgh. it is only about forty minutes by train now, but in those days it must have been difficult, travelling between the two cities by horse and cart.'

the book leads up to the olympics in beijing and the subsequent celebrations and knighthood, but then almost inexplicably jumps forward to valentines day, 2009 and that accident at copenhagen that took hoy out for a lengthy part of this year. i say inexplicably because the event which i have just attended this past weekend - the braveheart fund annual ride and dinner - was not only attended by chris hoy in 2008, but is the public face of that which sir chris hoy is patron. in fact last year's and this year's braveheart team jersey bears his signature. yet braveheart receives not a single mention throughout the 306 pages; not even in the comprehensive index. i didn't expect an entire chapter on this affiliation, but a mention would have been a nice touch. however, we now know that he does actually eat bran flakes for breakfast, how many calories are in those thigh muscles, and the rather incredible fact that his maximum power output on the track is a few mere watts under 2500.

that said, this is an enjoyable life's story that is unlikely to disappoint fans of sir chris. bizarrely, the book was released to almost no publicity at all on october 15th; bearing in mind that hoy has just won three gold medals at the track world cup this past weekend, perhaps publication could have been better timed to coincide.


posted tuesday 3 november 2009

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