andy warhol's pertinent statement that everybody will be famous for fifteen minutes has become something of an apocryphal message. quite obviously, not everyone will own fifteen minutes of fame, depending, of course, on just how you defne the latter. guys and gals who you pass, or wave to, or avoid on the road or trails might very well be famous for doing something of note, it's just that at that particular moment, they were just riding their bikes.
shows such as the north american handbuilt show (nahbs) are great levellers. the row along the back of the hall exists to portray the velocipedinal creations of the one man shop, the folks for whom this is a superb opportunity to join the likes of richard sachs, tony pereira, ira ryan, baum cycles et al, but conceivably with less expense and demonstrably less flourish. the real difference in this case, is that these stout hearted bike builders are on the other side of the counter to you and me and therefore have something to be proud of. perhaps when the show reaches denver, colorado next february/march, things will have escalated and far from occupying a single, draped table, they'll have progressed to a bona-fide booth.
of course, it's just as conceivable that they will have disappeared from view, yet they'll know the satisfaction of having experienced just a fringe of the fame that is applied to the more prominent members of the community of which they have become a part.
the message that fame may just have arrived for a brief moment could be regularly seen while plying the spaces between the booths in a series of ever diminishing circles, rotations that placed increasing emphasis on having made the correct choice of footwear before i left islay over a week ago. my meagre testament to the photographer's art was upheld by a compact, five year-old lumix camera, punified in the face of lenses that resembled a phalanx of small armaments. not wishing to dsiturb my fellow onlookers, nor to rearrange several carefully designed displays, i merely hovered as insignificantly as i could in the background exercising my shutter finger while praying that the resultant imagery would avoid the dgeree of blur that usually follows eschewing any flash (it's a photoshop thing).
as technology marches ahead, what would once have been merely a selection of still images testifying to the efficacy of brazing, tig welding or carbon gluing, has morphed inexorably towards the moving picture. i'm afraid i remained aloof from any degree of investigative journalism and asked not for where these video interviews were intended, but i don't doubt that youtube and vimeo will be awash with the results in the merest hint of a freehub click. and that surely is from where the fifteen minutes of fame will arrive for many who merely made the trek to northern california in order to show the results of their ministrations.
the not inconsiderable effort of labouring round each and every booth to relay to the greater, inquisitive bicycling public just what they would have seen had they arrived at the sacramento convention center is not an undertaking to be regarded lightly. each innovation, paint scheme and more than a few thoroughly suspect frame designs were photographed and videoed from every conceivable angle with the express purpose of enlightenment and hopeful increase in site page views. not, i might add, by me.
i have neither the skill, patience or mindset to pursue such a travail; others can do so far better and accurately than i. it therefore behoves me well to consider just what it is thewashingmachinepost can bring to the coffee table that will convince you i was in sacramento on serious business and not just a pilgrimage to the lair of the alchemists. from my perspective, it would be naive to pull an all-nighter before heading to the airport, keen to impress my degree of steadfastness in the face of age and senility. not being one to rely on copious notes nor sound recording, led photographer nick czerula to refer to me as an old romantic. hopefully he meant well (i know he did), for he is truthfully not wide of the mark.
i will thus detach myself from macbook air and resort to manfully trying to squeeze a quart into a pint pot in order that i might fool the baggage check-in at alaska airlines tomorrow morning. nahbs will receive due coverage on thewashingmachinepost, perhaps in fragmentary fashion and almost definitely devoid of joined up thinking. there are a lot of stories to relate, but it might take a day or a week or two to place everything in its correct perspective, giving the north american handbuilt show a life extension that it undoubtedly deserves.
so, to everyone who came over and said "hi" and to all who have engaged me in conversation, taken me bike riding, proposed to their girlfriends, been some of the best friends a representative of the media (it says so on my pass) could ever hope for, i would like to say thank you. because it's the only way i can impress upon all those who may never see their fifteen minutes of fame just what a wonderful place the world of cycling is to be right at the moment.
posted saturday 3 march 2012 (by our overseas correspondent)...........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i live on a small island that measures roughly 21 miles by 21 miles, lots of which is filled by nothing more than sheep droppings and cattle poo, along with a population of the very beasts that unconcernedly make such mess. there are around nine hotels on the island (ten, if you count the machrie which is currently closed). i have been deliberately less than accurate with that number as at east two of these accommodation providers describe themselves as inns, though i find it hard to tell the difference. it will come as little surprise, that i know the owners or managers of pretty much every one of these establishments.
alter my geographical location somewhat, by the not inconsiderable distance of almost 5,000 miles and the perspective changes somewhat. spending a few days in sacramento, california for the north american handbuilt show i have taken advantage of the show's partner establishment, and occupied a room in the hyatt regency hotel. one of the immediate differences should be somewhat obvious to even the most geographically challenged if i point out that my room is on the eighth floor. i'm pretty sure that of all the hotels on islay, not one extends to more than two floors (as apart from the ground floor, that is).
the other giveaway, though you cannot see it at present, is that sacramento is currently displaying a rather fine dollop of sunshine for as far as the eye can see. unfortunately, the eye cannot see too far, as distinct from islay's open view of the horizon, this one is surrounded by buildings that look down upon my eighth floor balcony (yes, really). however, the winning stroke for me, in the few minutes i have allowed myself to gather an impression relates, not entirely unconnectedly, to the subject of bicycles.
on my last visit to portland, i occupied two evenings in the red lion hotel on martin luther king jr. boulevard (islay is somewhat bereft of such impressive addresses such as this, and i fear it would not translate into gaelic too well either). during my visit of one week, chris king's had lent me the previously referred to cielo sportif prototype, an accoutrement that i feared would receive stern and disapproving glances from hotel reception. after all, nobody in their right mind would attempt to sneak a blue road bike into their hotel room while feigning insouciance. would they?
seems they would, and i did. even on my return from a rainy afternoon in the saddle, with dripping tyres, bottom bracket and chain, to say nothing of my own soggy and dishevelled disposition, the worst that reception could issue was a cheery "hi. bit wet outside?" as i wheeled the cielo into the elevator.
so despite the fact that this weekend's exclusive subject matter is nahbs, and that the hyatt is the official partner accommodation establishment, it is still a remarkable vision to sit, plate piled high with cinnamon french toast, and watch an endless flow of bicycles being wheeled across a highly polished hotel lobby floor.
i have a notion to try likewise at one of glasgow's more respected establishments and see if the reaction is the same. sadly, i fear not.
posted friday 2 march 2012 (by our overseas correspondent)...........................................................................................................................................................................................................
though ostensibly the same story but told in a different voice, there is a marked difference between the wonka movie starring gene wilder and its modern equivalent with johnny depp. the latter wonka seems much more a victim of his circumstances, almost at the mercy of the oompah loompahs and their obscure yet technologically questionable methods of creating the world's finest chocolate. wilder manages to imply a steely death grip over not only his employees, but to be a man very much in charge of his own destiny. witness the change in his demeanour when congratulating charlie on having passed the test as a worthy successor to the inevitable health and safety nightmare that will doubtless ensue when change of ownership papers are signed.
a man who does not suffer fools gladly.
johnny depp, however, remains childlike throughout, a man to whom things happen rather than one who decrees their happening. i often wonder whether christopher lee as the father figure with a dental practice was something of an afterthought to help explain this strange characterisation, for i find it hard to reconcile the apparent superiority of product design that has resulted from one who changes not his disposition throughout the film.
hollywood has a lot to answer for.
the notion, however, that the inadvertant acquisition of a golden ticket will allow full and almost unrestricted access to a bastion of former secrecy is one that has been played out in many a fairytale over the years. in the wonka story, it was a combination of dumb luck and persistence that brought charlie to that golden ticket. in many another, defeating a dragon or ogre conferred the same benefit.
though most of us as adults (with the possible exception of johnny depp) can discriminate between 'real-life' and fictional fairy tales, on occasion, life can imitate art. on my previous stay in portland some three years ago, a visit to the chris king plant at nw nela was saddled with politely requested restrictions which could be neatly summed up as 'no photographs please'. i do not know enough about cnc machining techniques to know if my 350 pixel representations of the factory floor would have been sufficient for the latvians or chinese to set up a similar manufacturing process with perhaps different anodising colours or not, but the shroud of secrecy and, in my case, sense of privilege seemed to be gently, yet firmly enforced.
far from this being an irritant or disappointment, i cannot deny that it added to the sense of marvel and exclusivity that an apparently random trudge about the premises engendered in one who felt delightfully favoured. i think i speak for all when i declare this could be summed up as 'i could tell you, but i'd have to shoot you afterwards'. but similar to the circumstances surrounding mr wonka and his chocolate, things change; now the secretive part has become a welcome with open arms and 'what would you like to see?'
i do not, at this particular juncture, have an answer to this change of heart, for on my visit to nw nela at the beginning of the week, the only request was to refrain from publishing any photos of the nahbs machines until at least friday when the exhibiton commences in sacramento. in the true spirit of egalitarianism, i demurred from capturing even one image, preferring to wait until california beckoned. everything else, however, was apparently fair game. had the bureaucrats of health and safety not dictated otherwise, i believe it would have been perfectly in order for me to sit inside and photograph a daewoo cnc machine while it carved off the aluminium that has no place on a chris king hub.
though the shop floor is viewed from on high, and from behind expansive glass, there seems little sense of other than calm industriality being carried out below. far from experiencing the wrenching sound of metal being digitally yet screamingly separated from its family, i believe i may have viewed more frantic activity in a launderette. this is not to imply a phalanx of workers comfortably seated in herman miller chairs sipping cans of mountain due with only one eye on a digital readout; it was perfectly obvious that stuff was being made, but in a calmly ordered fashion. much like the way in which a chris king ring-drive operates, come to that.
attend one of the many tours operated within the confines of islay's distilleries, and you will be treated to a blow by blow account of the processes indulged for the production of uisge beatha in correct, sequential order: barley to dram, if you will. such is not quite the case at king's where the shop floor, with its eccentric mix of digital and engagingly low-tech analogue lathes and presses, is viewed and explained prior to reaching the remarakably large and open bay that constitutes the raw-material repository. huge solid bars of steel and aluminium in varying diameters, occasionally punctuated by flat, solid discs that will, sometime very soon, become somebody's single-speed rear sprocket. it's just that, at the minute, the number of teeth has yet to be decided.
green credentials are uppermost on the minds of many an industrial goliath these days, a number coloured only by the imagination of those anxious to gain credibility without the pain and heartache of having to do something about it. remain true and loyal to many a caustic process, but carbon offset the destruction by planting a few trees in malaysia. chris king's use, and have used for some considerable time, a soya based oil for pretty much all their manufacturing processes. this oil still clings on for dear life to the metal swarf that is surplus to requirements, yet destined for recycling. king's therefore leave the aforesaid metal detritus in open barrels, perforated to allow the oil to succumb to gravitational forces. after a few days of this, the excess metal is compacted into ingots, during which darned near all the extraneous soya oil emulates elvis, and leaves the building (so to speak).
having done all possible to return the oil to its pristine original state, this is then receyled through the relevant factory machinery and begins its dizzy process once more. this has, i was advised, been the case for more years than they care to recall, and studiously in advance of any greening that federal and moral laws would require.
coincidentally, my loaned ride for this trip emanated for the same space as occupied by the cielo prototype that i rode three years ago. for not only do chris king's have a substantial cielo fabrication taking place in a delineated far corner of the storage bay, but they are also contracted with producing all the models in james selman's beloved range (it says so on the left chainstay). at the previous point of visitation, the cielo area consisted of little more than a selection of cnc'd fork crowns and a pristine variety of stainless steel dropouts and seatstay caps. hanging on the wall at the time were four, unpainted cielo sportif framesets.
the difference now is like comparing johnny depp with gene wilder. there is tangible activity taking place; tig welding is in evidence; there are more than just a few unpainted frames around the upper reaches of the walls, and right, slap-bang in the midst of all this is a rather large white tent that constitutes the recently implemented in-house paint shop. colorado's spectrum were the previous colourists of choice, but with demand for these superb frames currently exceeding the capacity of cielo to build them, it apparently made far more pragmatic and economic sense to bring the process and thus the quality control to portland. at the time of my visit, the finishing touches were being made to the mountain bike frame destined for nahbs 2012.
aside from the factory floor, there are the cubicles of minutiae on the periphery; you surely didn't think those little round medical grade bearings climbed into the headset races on their own, did you? there is even a contraption diligently manually operated to check the tension of the ring-drive springs. rather obviously, this spring needs to have the wherewithal to push the ring back into contact with the hub to enable forward motion, but each and every example is examined to ensure that it does what it says on the tin. too strong or too weak, and they end up in the recycle bin. and there is no machine that pops headsets, hubs or bottom brackets into their respective boxes accompanied by a shiny sticker; there are people who do that manually as well.
i have no real idea what brought about the decision to freely offer a golden ticket to anyone with the temerity to ask, and in reality, as one who is still coming to terms with the notion that i may be regarded as media, it makes little difference other than being allowed to say what i previously might not have been, and to photograph and publish a lot more than simply the front door.
there are many wonderful people working at nw nela, but i believe that i ought to at least mention, kyle von hoetzendorff, dylan van weelden, jay sycip and brian schultz for treating me like scottish royalty during my hours in the anonymous grey building. and while on the subject of royalty, it was something of an added bonus to be introduced to chris king after a rather fine vegetarian lunch and eye-popping double espresso in the staff restaurant.
whether you have your bicycle tricked out with chris king components or not is, to a certain extent, neither here nor there. for those of us who do, let the above serve as confirmation of choice; for those who have yet to achieve but currently live in anodised aspiration, it gives me great pleasure to announce that you are undoubtedly headed in the right direction, something i am rarely able to say was the case during my portland perambulations of downtown (though i did find nw nela without undue concern and trauma).
posted thursday 1 march 2012 (by our overseas correspondent)...........................................................................................................................................................................................................
the last time i was in portland (cue song), jude kirstein worked in little more than a cupboard, having commenced what was then epic wheelworks only the week previous. even in a bicycle friendly place like portland, a one woman wheel show was a somewhat tenuous concept at best and a train wreck waiting to happen at worst. the concept of a handbuilt bicycle frame is not necessarily an easy sell by any manner of means in these days of wall to wall carbon madones and tarmacs, but nor is it a totally alien concept amongst the cognoscenti. handbuilt wheels, on the other hand are a whole different game of dominoes, especially those associated with the somewhat overused epithet epic.
the now far more satisfactorily named sugar wheelworks (thank you specialized legal department) has flourished handsomely in the intervening years, moving to a highly attractive and more approachable space on north williams, occupied in tandem (apologies for the pun) with natalie ramsden's sweetpea fitting studio on the mezzanine above. to put all in perspective and in the vernacular, this girl has got her shit together in a big way. the room is dominated by an ageing rack of pigeon holes containing bundled spokes, hubs and wheelbuilding stuff that attests to the relaxed efficiency necessitated by more than one person responsible for the well-being of sugar.
it is quite impossible to hold any length of conversation with miss kirstein without being impressed with her enthusiasm and integrity, to say little of her consummate knowledge of just what constitutes the perfect wheel. and not just a single example of same, but the appreciation that my perfect wheel is more than likely, not the same as yours. i'm an old softie, much given to encouraging thoughts of unsurpassed power, but safe in the knowledge that proof of this is highly unlikely to be ever demanded. you, on the other hand, may be a tad overweight but pretty sure of your ground when it comes to emulating mark cavendish (albeit at a calculated lower speed).
these differences are likely to require differences in build configuration. one size most definitely does not fit all.
garnering all this evidence and promotable information is a lifetime's work, one that can but be built on by sugar as the years roll by. it is a more than scary prospect to translate all this acquired knowledge into a training manual for someone else. yet that is exactly what is in the process of happening, as jude has taken on part-time help to supply the eager and willing with the wherewithal to roll forward. she has also channelled the very same knowledge into teaching the great unwashed how to build wheels; a not entirely altruistic, but certainly magnanimous undertaking. and yet there may be method in her apparent madness.
i can build wheels, fairly successfully even if i do say so myself, but i'd be the first to admit that this is the result of large helpings of pure, dumb luck. if you happened to be the hapless individual, queueing conscientiously outside thewashingmachinepost bike shed, you'd pretty much have to take what you got. need something other than drc rims? tough, that's all that's in stock. prefer dtswiss spokes? hard luck, i can't buy them at a price that makes any sense, so you'll get italian aci spokes and like it. hubs? well, i can come and go a bit on that score, but i promise you'll be disappointed. stretch my meagre abilities to encompass the type of rider you are, the model of bicycle you ride and your physical build, and i am floundering in an ocean of vague uncertainty.
the world is, however, safe from such manifest and demonstrable inadequacy, for i am well aware of my place in the firmament, and wheelbuilding does not form a part of that place. attending a sugar wheelbuilding class, at the very least ought to provide the incumbent with more than enough information and skill to assist in making an informed choice of not only the component parts, but the very intrinsic nature of whether it's a particularly good idea to be building their own wheels in the first place.
in the very best of british political traditions i must declare a tangible interest. though entering the front door will fill your field of vision with the ephemera of the wheelbuilder's art, it will also slap you in the face with the store within a store that constitutes the brian palmer tasting room. the businessman within me demands that i ought to trademark this concept for franchise opporchancities, but i cannot take credit for other than simply being the person named on the wall-plaque. applying a bit of subtle lateral thinking, jude has adapted the familiar single-malt whisky concept to that of providing sample sets of wheels to gauge what may or may not work on your velocipede of choice. it is with great pride and honour that i happily acknowledge the aforementioned plaque and praise its typography to inhabit the realm of the lower-case letter, a feature that has come to infuriate as much as intrigue.
sitting well-used midst this panoply of sugar-built wheels are those of my very own curiously random specification: chris king pink hubs built thirty-two three cross, tied and soldered on mavic open pro rims and shod with continental 700x25c four seasons rubber. it works for me and thanks to the tasting room, you can find out if they may serve the same purpose for your own riding. if not, there are several alternative choices available.
despite portland's wide acceptance of the bicycle as both transport and recreation, jude confessed that woman cannot live by stumptown alone; the net needs to be cast wider. investment in an affordable method of safely shipping sugar wheels to far flung continents (a pair have already been despatched to australia), means that more than just cyclists in the pacific northwest can benefit from miss kirstein's expertise.
our conversation touched on agreeable points of order regarding both wheels and frames, points that do not necessarily conform with current thinking or marketing. however, mine were made from personal observation and backed up with little more than conjecture, allied to a form of contemporary luddite-ness. jude can back up her opinions with something a little more concrete.
so, far from crashing and burning, jude kirstein has moved sugar wheel works to a substantially more imperious position in the sphere of handbuilt bicycle componentry. and in so doing, she has provided it with a solid base that will be very hard to shake. much as i deplore the 'i know something you don't know' school of journalism, something of which i undertook to say no more, holds the promise of ensuring sugar becomes the jedi of american handbuilt wheels.
and by serendipitous arrangement unbeknownst to me at the time, the bicycle on which i arrived, rolled courtesy of a pair of sugar wheels. don't you just love it when a plan comes together?
posted monday 27 february 2012 (by our overseas correspondent)...........................................................................................................................................................................................................
it's not altogether an unnatural thing to do. anyone with even a passing interest in bicycles will likely find themselves being assumpted to the extent that, arriving in a foreign land, the first point of order will likely be the bike ride. not having brought a bicycle with me, you will perhaps excuse my own assumption that platitiudes could be made, and plea bargaining convincingly and safely be entered into; showing willing, but unfortunately... that's a lot harder in portland, because it appears everyone not only has bikes to spare, but almost inevitably in my size.
do not, however, get me wrong; in comparison to my own little rock in the atlantic, portland not only has roads with proper surfaces, but a heck of a lot more of them, many of which come with free ascending thrown in. however, portland is not just next door, it's nearly 5,000 miles away; more if you take into account that everything seems to route through amsterdam's schipol airport, meaning you have to go back to move forward. this adds up, due to a slight detour via seattle to more or less twelve hours travelling and over twenty four hours without any real sleep. by my own convoluted logic and less than stoic constitution, this made for possibly the ultimate get-out clause.
of course, it would be something of a hollow claim were i to protest too much against cycling in portland. it is, more or less, the done thing, so by awake time the morning after the day before, all protestations had been carefully stowed and i was more than happy to accompany the inestimable mr olson on an outing to the far side of the river. if you've been paying close attention, there was not the altogether unconsidered situation of a lack of velocipedinal transportation, but my host owns the equivalent of a small bicycle store and it was an easy matter to provide a black, rapha liveried, tony pereira bicycle for my exclusive use. at least for the morning.
i would be lying if i told you i could relate our entire route; i simply followed slate's wheel as closely as i could, trying desperately to remember that in america, do as the americans do and ride on the right side of the road (as opposed to the left side of the road, which would be wrong, and not altogether conducive to my good health).
all roads lead seemingly to skyline; on my previous visit, after relating confidently about how my only redeeming feature was an ability to ride uphill, i was taken up logie's trail, an experience that not only resulted in two involuntary stoppages, but large helpings of purgatory. by golly can i demonstrate how the scots can suffer. this time, if memory serves, we ascended the road on which we had descended on the previous occasion three years ago. there is little more dispiriting than scrabbling for every cubic centimetre of oxygen, while slate and the recently met kyle, held a comfortable conversation several paces ahead. had the road not levelled out when it did, i fear i would have disgraced myself by having to stop and call for resuscitation. (i shall, of course, deny every word of this if questioned.)
i'm sure the scenery was unmissable, but in my case it was obscured by black spots in front of both eyes.
i am, however, more than willing to admit my fear of heights when they involve several miles of rapid descending. never have dual pivot calipers proved so useful. yet again, mr olson left me standing by some considerable distance. i am rapidly acquiring a sizeable quantity of humility, and 'tis only day one. the bonus, from my point of view, was finding slate stopped at the base of the descent (the ignominious, logie's trail) in the company of ira ryan and his fiancee, rachael, at the foot of the road. on my previous visit to portland, ira was in italy watching the giro d'italia, so we had, up until this particular point, not met. if only i could have arrived far faster and with a greater degree of decorum.
c'est la vie.
yet another assumption, one to which i offered no resistance whatsoever, was the option of retiring to an appropriately nearby hostelry for a soya cappuccino. perhaps the first time this trip when i was able to demonstrate an appropriate degree of skillful consumption.
now that we're home and dry (literally), the whole outing has taken on an entirely different hue, and by the time i return home, i will have been outstandingly magnificent, upholding the honour of the scottish nation and demonstrating just why we have a deservedly tenacious nature in the face of adversity.
but we'll just keep that between ourselves, ok?
i apologise for the lack of pertinent illustrations, but you need so much energy to press that shutter button.
posted sunday 26 february 2012 (by our overseas correspondent)...........................................................................................................................................................................................................
unlike many a traditional career, the path to the top in cycle racing is often one fraught with disappointment, unexpected hurdles and a constant battle against advancing years. perhaps that is overstating the case for a rider domiciled in one of the european bastions of cycle sport, where the path may be a little more clearly defined, but for a british-based rider, all is less than straightforward. only yesterday was i reading the comic's table of top british riders, one currently headed by scotland's robert millar, a man brought principally to our attention by fourth place and king of the mountains in the tour of 1984. that was almost thirty years ago.
granted, there have been some superlative efforts since then on the world cycling stage, particularly in the current cavendish years, but there are probably still a large percentage of the british population who wonder what mark's real job is when he's not riding his bike. it's a sad fact that the careers officer who would recommend following the path to the tour de france probably does not exist in the british education system.
which is, of course, a lamentable fact; british domestic racing has rarely been so well supported by both public and professional teams alike. the tour series has managed to equal or surpass that achieved by channel four's televised city centre racing from the eighties, but yet the depth and breadth of cycle racing, particularly stage racing is largely missing. for any rider who wishes to pursue their career to its ultimate conclusion, it is probably still necessary to move to europe and one of the european-based teams that may just have the eye of a pro-continental or world tour team.
however, as demonstrated by a number of british riders, it's not quite that simple. couple that with the fact that bike riders have a sell by date to achieve promotion to somewhere near the top, and luck very much has to be on your side for a long stretch of that career.
thankfully, at least one british based professional team has moved the goalposts (to use a completely inappropriate sporting metaphor), by installing itself as a uci continental team intent on competing in europe as much as domestically. i recently featured the endura team by way of their pre-season training camp, and a team that have bucked the british trend for parochiality to prove to themselves and the world just what they're made of. this is not to undermine the efforts of other british professional teams; it costs a great deal of money to go this far, and as team manager brian smith related, is highly dependent on receiving invites to some of the bigger races to justify not only the expense on behalf of endura, but the aspirations of the riders they have signed to take on the task(s).
i have also previously mentioned the rapha condor sharp take on the 2012 season, a team that intend to solve a part of the modern conundrum by bringing on younger riders with a view to them making the leap upwards at a younger age, thus enhancing their chances on the professional circuit abroad. one of the riders for rcs in last season's guise, where they won a substantial number of uk domestic events was jonathan tiernan locke, a man who came to prominence via his success in the king of the mountains jersey in the 2011 tour of britain. john herety expressed his disappointment that tiernan locke had not been snapped up by a world tour team, figuring that perhaps it was his age that mitigated against such a happenstance, a point of view that was likely a deciding factor in the rapha team's philosophy for 2012.
tiernan locke moved from rapha condor sharp to endura, presumably in part as a result of the rcs decision, but also as a way of placing himself in a situation that would hopefully lead to bigger and better continental races, and more of them. as career moves go, it was a particularly astute one.
endura's first major race of 2012 was the tour of the mediterranean running from february 9th - 12th over four stages. jonathan tiernan locke not only took stage one, but crossed the line alone on the final climb of the final stage to take two stages and the overall. moving onto the tour de haut var taking place over two days (february 18th and 19th), tiernan locke took third on the opening day, then won the second day's stage to again take the overall in this well-respected event. did his wins at the tour of the mediterranean and subsequently at haut var, seem part of the same process that gave him the king of the mountains jersey in last year's tour of britain?
"Yeah they did. In 2011 I had only a few chances to really make a mark, and the tour of Britain was the result of changing my whole approach. I just carried that focus through the winter."
while a team's fan base can view the moving on of a rider as a disappointment, as a lack of loyalty to the cause, or failure of team management to realise the worth of a favoured rider, we need to bear in mind that it can also be the rider's choice to further his/her career. as my father was wont to say, "you should never mix business and sentiment". was it a sad day moving on from rapha condor sharp, or does such sentimentality not figure in jonathan's career?
"I spent long enough in the cycling wilderness, riding races that didn't motivate me or allow me to use my strengths. A bit of a vicious circle. The move to Endura was about getting a better programme and proving what I could do, not making friends. Rapha Condor Sharp was a really good group though, and I suspect I might still be half-heartedly riding local races for fun, whilst working a normal job if I hadn't been given a ride there a couple of years ago."
figuring out that you're good at something, particularly a sporting activity like cycling, often gains momentum in late teenage years, continuing until you run out of puff, or the job offers fail to come flooding in at season's end. however, i'd heard that jonathan had taken a year out not so very long ago. what was it that convinced him to stage a comeback?
"Three years in fact. I was working in my friends bike shop - Colin Lewis Cycles - over my university summer holidays. The guys were always saying I should get on a bike again. I remember we had the tour on (TV) one afternoon, and I saw my old team-mate in the break... I pretty much decided there and then that I would race the following season."
having spoken to endura team manager, brian smith, about endura's 2012 race programme, he pointed out that uci continental teams tend to be last to receive any invites to the bigger races (if at all) because, quite naturally, the organisers tend to favour the uci continental teams from their own country. teams from other countries, such as endura, are usually only invited to fill an empty space in the line-up. however, it becomes very hard to ignore 'foreign' teams that have garnered a quality early season palmares. is jonathan hopeful that his two wins so far will gain endura invites to some of the better races this year?
Of course. People know we're not just making up the numbers now, so I'm confident it will open doors to better races."
climbers are often regarded, rightly or wrongly, as solitary individuals, principally because they tend to be the only ones left standing at the top of a long ascent. unlike defined sprinters, they are usually bereft of any team-mates as the white line hoves into view several thousand metre above sea-level. all three of jonathan's stage victories this year appear to have been solo flights, but did he in fact, have a strong supporting cast working to provide him with the best of advantages? "Very much so. In fact, had it not been for my team-mates' hard work, I wouldn't have even attempted what I did on stage one in the med. I'd planned to come in with the bunch that day, but Rene (Mandri) rode like ten men to keep me at the front, so I thought I'd better do something!"
it is not unusual for individual riders to be in discussion with their team directors at the outset of the season, to decide in which races their talents would be best placed on display. however, given the previously mentioned problem of the race programme being a bit sketchy in places while waiting for bona-fide invites from the organisers, those are discussions that may not always have a concrete conclusion until further into the season. does jonathan have a particular race targeted, or is he still in slightly uncharted territory? "Not really, as I don't know what invites we'll get later on in the year. Murcia (3rd and 4th March) is the next big race for me though, as I believe there is a summit finish."
the phrase resting on one's laurels is not generally in common usage in any of the uci's pelotons; the taste of victory often provides a taste for even more. however, it is always possible that a rider with early season successes feels it less necessary to bring home the firewood, so to speak, after providing team management and sponsor with early justification of his signing. is having made such a strong impression this early in the season likely to hamper jonathan tiernan locke's ambition as the months roll by?
"Not at all; my ambition has only increased, as there has been so much success so early."
i have pictured it many a time; with my years of pounding the ever disintegrating roads of the principality, i must by now have garnered the bike handling skills of andrea tafi and tom boonen. it is but a simple matter to transfer those hard-won skills into a mythical paris-roubaix victory (in teeming rain, of course), and i have already cleared an appropriate space on the mantelpiece for a roubaix cobblestone. at this point i usually wake up. however, if the proverbial all came together, no holds barred, is there any specific international race at any level in which jonathan would like to compete, or, dare we think it, win?
with a the surname of tiernan locke, i figure i'm on safe ground supposing that jonathan is not from north of the border. however, bearing in mind the title sponsor and ignoring the international nature of the endura equipe team, does he now consider himself an honorary scotsman? "I thought it was a British team?!"
rarely has any rider, let alone one from within these shores, experienced such a successful opening season, particularly for a new team. brian smith and julian winn must be rubbing their hands with glee. there is little doubt that the sporting profile of jonathan tiernan locke has been immeasurably enhanced by both victories, no doubt creating a flurry of interest in the ranks of both pro-continental and world tour directeurs sportifs. how does he proceed from here?
"I'll just try and keep the momentum going. I feel no pressure, although of course now I want to win more, but also repay my team-mates with some hard work when the racing suits. Ultimately I want to be going to the World Tour next year. I think I've done more than enough now, but cycling is a funny game."
my grateful thanks to both brian smith and jonathan teirnan locke for immeasurable assistance in preparation of this article. all photos by joolz dymond
posted wednesday 22 february 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i cannot say i found the topic humorous, far more likely one of iniquity, but if ever there were an immediate and graphic account of the gap between north and south, the current drought conditions pervading the south east of england must surely be it. according to the radio reports i overheard while trying to stave off yet another hour's sleep, rainfall in that part of the country is the lowest since records began over 100 years ago. yet here i am, on a rock off the west coast of scotland, experiencing exactly the contrary.
if a combination of severe gales and precitpitation threaten to curtail the saturday bicycle outing, my current solution is to gird the loins of the ibis hakkalugi and head for the relative shelter of bridgend woods. one of the few concentrated areas of trees on the island, the tracks and trails alongside the river sorn are often home to a myriad of dog walkers, particularly, it seems, of a wet saturday morn. thus my tempestuous outings are frequently interrupted by slower meanderings while attempting a subdued "hail fellow, well met, if only to prevent their dogs from eating my spokes.
unlike the gargantuan sections of forest available to mainland offroaders, bridgend woods is somewhat compact and bijou, though it does harbour a particularly exertive cyclocross route that enables me to display my complete lack of finesse when running uphill with a shouldered bicycle. this is inevitably followed by at least four attempts to leap aboard in the suggested manner, before giving up and just swinging a leg over the top tube. due to the smallness of play, it usually only occupies an hour or so before 'tis time to wend one's merry and oft bedraggled way south west to the enclave that is debbie's cafe.
aboard a cyclocross bicycle it would be particularly unseemly to ride on metalled road, therefore a swift body-swerve onto the grass and dunes at uiskentuie farm is designed to take both rider and following motorists completely by surprise. and her's where that record beating scottish rainfall comes into play.
on saturday past, a gale force wind blew directly up uiskentuie strand, straight into the face of your intrepid cyclist. couple that with exceptionally soggy ground underwheel, and the lack of traction contrived to have me off the bicycle on two separate occasions, as i was simply unable to continue any forward motion. the ground around these here parts has been like this since before christmas, leading to one or two sections of the strand behaving as if on ice. believe me, our reservoirs are full to overflowing; there is little chance of a hosepipe ban on islay anytime soon.
it does, therefore, seem a particularly inopportune time to commence display of lightweight, short sleeve jerseys, regular bib shorts and pink merino city shirts with those utterly fabulous fausto coppi buttoned pockets on the front. even the national jerseys, enticingly inviting us to gather support ephemera for the home team come london 2012 are construed with short sleeves, a form of garment that will likely not see the light of day till well past islay whisky festival in may.
obviously, spring/summer (for that is the favoured designation) is yet another brick in the north/south gap, one that favours those within hailing distance (poor choice of words) of perren street and all but excludes those who, of necessity resort to e-mail and phone. yet the introduction of so many less than 100% waterproof jerseys, shirts, bibs and jackets helps obliterate the manifest lack of assailable vitamin d. those of you within my geographical sphere of influence will no doubt concur that it is with foreboding that the bedroom curtains are opened each morning. just how many shades of dull grey is it possible to experience in one season? there are more than just a few of us quizzically checking periodically that we are not in danger of developing webbed feet.
rapha aficionados in the south-east of england may already have taken advantage of the in-stock items that have relinquished the coming soon banner, showing decent stock levels and ready for purchase. they will also likely have selected the inform me when this product is available button, sound in the knowledge that not only will they be safe from precipitation, but from errant hosepipe users in sunday morning driveways.
maybe next year, rapha could host separate north and south websites?
posted tuesday 21 february 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................