the tour de france has a lengthy, exciting and coloured history, having been the first of the three modern day grand tours to come into existence in 1903. the giro d'italia did not see the light of pink until six years later, always harbouring pretensions to challenging the circuit of france but arguably never quite making the grade. the tour of spain did not join the party until after a few more decades had passed.
whether through better marketing, greater hype or simply a longer existence, the tour de france has occupied front and centre for a considerable number of years, having turned it into something of a present day circus with a bike race hiding at its centre. the 2012 winner, bradley wiggins has recently admitted that, though gratified to have become the first british rider to have won le grande boucle, he failed to enjoy the race. this he put down to the pressure placed upon the yellow jersey across several stages and a number of innuendos aimed at that selfsame jersey via what is currently referred to as social media.
however, it is bradley wiggins and his "we're just going to draw the raffle" podium speech that effectively bookends this latest edition of tour de france by renowned author graeme fife. here is a book that has grown in size as each successive year's tour enters history. first published in 1999, the early chapters dissect the tour into several of its component parts, titled with several of the race's iconic climbs. alpe d'huez, col du telegraphe, col du galibier and mont ventoux to name but a few. each are pinned to the early decades of le tour de france.
1998 is the first year to have a chapter bestowed to its entirety, with a prophetic 'the tour of renewal ascribed to that of 1999. all the lance years (usada directive notwithstanding) are here in full, leading up to the addition of the 2012 edition of the race to bring the book bang up to date.
i have reviewed previous editions of this book, a publication which i believe offers something of an anomaly in the filling of a comprehensive cycling bookcase. for if the only difference from its predecessor of twelve months before is the augmentation of a report on the most recent edition of the race, truly how many are going to be willing to purchase on a regular basis? yes, i do have two copies of david byrne's the bicycle diaries, but that was a mistake. does someone really pay the same money yet again for an extra twenty two pages?
normally, i'd say no. if you do not own any copies of this book from previous years, i think you ought to be asking yourself why, before remedying the situation immediately. graeme fife is one of the finest authors currently concerning himself with cycling matters, offering an easy to read yet acutely descriptive and informed narrative. we are, i would venture, fortunate to have a writer of this calibre batting for our side, if you'll forgive the mixed sporting metaphor. however, even those who own several previous editions may well be inclined to acquire this latest issue, if only on the basis that, from a uk point of view, it is an historical year in the fortunes of british cycling.
to that end, and with the gracious assistance of mainstream publishing and author graeme fife, i have a signed copy of the book to give away to the sender of the correct answer to the following question: which british rider appears on the cover of the latest edition of graeme fife's book 'tour de france'? please make sure you provide a full postal address along with your e-mailed entry, sent to email@example.com. closing date is monday 17th september
monday 10th september 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
stuff breaks. and stuff breaks when it is used for purposes other than that which it was designed. it's pretty much the basis of the well-worn phrase 'about as much use as a chocolate fireguard' because, for rather obvious reasons, chocolate is not as fire-resistant as it could be. there is, of course, perception to be taken into account. i recall several years ago requesting a pair of carbon fibre chainrings, because i thought it an utterly pointless idea. a bit like the chocolate fireguard as it happens. i had visions of me climbing hardily in the big ring, while small carbon teeth went pinging into the undergrowth.
it does me little credit that i was, over a decent period of time, proved completely wrong. maybe perception isn't my forte. on the basis of recent experience, it would certainly seem to be the case.
you will recall, perhaps, those beautiful wooden wheels received from sugar wheelworks in portland. fitted with white 28mm panaracer tyres, they were a pretty classy addition to the lime green ibis hakkalugi and when coupled with a brooks colt saddle, i was very much the man about town. or perhaps the man about village would be a more accurate rendition.
though track riders from the nineteen thirties were happy to ply their trade upon bamboo rimmed wheels, somehow the notion of riding upon wooden wheels brings to mind the carbon fibre chainrings; why the heck would you? surely wood could not possibly provide the same strength and resilience as afforded by anodised aluminium. wood doesn't even conduct heat very well for heaven's sake, meaning the the rubber brake shoes had to be replaced with cork, another type of wood that does not impress with its resistance to the trials and tribulations of the world. but then, it's worth remembering that certain second world war aeroplanes were constructed almost entirely from wood.
the review period and process concerning these ghisallo wood rims has, up till now, concerned itself entirely with road riding. granted, some of the roads traversed have been less than billiard table smooth, but you can't have everything. now, through somewhat convoluted thinking, i figured i'd pop a pair of continental 35c speed kings onto the ghisallo rims and head into the undergrowth, hoping against hope that this wasn't one of those mistakes that i might live to regret. i do rather like these wheels and i'd be a tad distraught if they became a disjointed wooden sculpture entirely through my misguided use.
you have to figure that you see few, if any, cyclocross riders on wood wheels these days, but that obviously ought to be tempered with the thought that the same applies to those on the road. and if i take a close look at the decals on the varnished rims, neither make any statements contravening my dubious choice. though there are a number of internet resources relating to these beechwood rims, i chose not to read those just in case i came across the words do not use these on a 'cross bike! judging by my experiences so far, it seems unlikely that such a chapter actually exists.
bridgend woods is the ideal location for a bit of getting down and dirty, composed as it is of soft grassy patches, muddy tracks, loose gravel and many a rocky road. given my self-confessed lack of skill when riding offroad, i cannot guarantee that those wheels were given an easy ride; there were one or two moments when unidentified thuds may have been attempting insurrection in the ranks. the wheels that the sugars replaced are factory builds; good, but not outstanding. the sugar/ghisallo builds are quite the contrary, removing a skittishness that i'd barely recognised as such until riding on wood.
walloping uphill as hard as possible over a bumpy rocky road imposed a far greater degree of confidence and direct steering than had previously been the case, while haring downhill over a gravel and grass strewn track could be done in relaxed style. prior excursions across this selfsame trail were frequently attempted at the limits of my bike handling, often having to simply follow where the bicycle itself was wont to go. and that wasn't always the best solution to getting from top to bottom. this time, however, the solidity of the wheels (three cross x 36 front and back) appeared to have handed the steering back to yours truly.
this redeeming feature seems to be a new found consistency, as my travels across the grassed dunes of uiskentuie strand exhibited this same joy of more direct steering.
my principal concern over riding these wheels in less than pristine conditions was that of breakage. suppose i dipped into a hole or rut unforeseen through a pair of tinted rudy projects? the rims seem strong enough, but repeated poundings might change all that. in the interests of scientific research (such as it is), it seemed better to confront this worry head on by crashing into any obstacle that looked even remotely threatening, though i confess i avoided most of the sheep and cattle scattered about the strand. you can take things just too far.
when the bike was placed on the workstand for cleaning apres ride, i had the opporchancity to check the rims, wheels and white industries hubs; all members of the family are doing more than well, thank you for asking.
my other fear had been that of braking. wet weather stopping had initially been fraught with a heart-in-mouth reaction, though this had ameliorated as rims and cork pads had bedded in over time. however, gloop covered rims riding over sketchy tracks promised to test once and for all just how effective cork on wood might conceivably be. happily all fears were unfounded, braking managing at one point to bring the ibis to a complete halt precisely where intended. at the outset, i didn't think that possible.
so it seems the notion of placing a pair of cyclocross tyres on a pair of sugar wheelworks wood rimmed wheels wasn't quite the faux pas it could have been. a result for which i am entirely grateful, because it means more weekends of scooting about on what is undoubtedly the coolest looking cyclocross bicycle in the nation with nary a concern over their fitness for purpose.
now that worry shifts to the rider.
sunday 9th september 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
the following story concerns one manufacturer and one distributor of that manufacturers products, but i'd like to point out before i start, that it could and does easily apply to very many others. cycling is like that.
i receive a very pleasurable number of bicycles, clothing and components for review on thewashingmachinepost, the majority of which perform exactly the way they were intended to. sometimes they excel. in order that both manufacturer/distributor gain the most bang for buck i am inclined to expedite my subsequent reviews after spending the amount of time riding or wearing the product i adjudge to be appropriate. i think i could count on the fingers of both hands, the number of items i have disfavoured in print, not because i am beholden to those who send the goodies, but because very few people are producing rubbish these days.
any subsequent embarrassment if and when the product fails to last becomes a matter between me and those responsible for provision. it doesn't often happen, but the law of averages dictates that at some point, something is going to fall apart a tad earlier than its packaging would have you believe. after posting a complimentary review i have occasionally received correspondence from readers in agreement and once or twice from those who have not experienced the same comfort and joy. as the saying goes that's life. the trick, if i might be so flippant, is to decide whether this was something that was always going to happen, necessitating an updated review, or if i have been the recipient of a rogue component.
i can recall two items that have performed well during the review period and subsequently failed big time, one of which i might discuss with you now.
almost exactly two years ago, i received a pair of crank brothers eggbeater pedals along with a pair of candys from the same people. these were sent by 2pure, the uk distributors of crank brothers products. i had not ridden spd style pedals before, but found both to be quite impressive, perhaps leaning towards the candys because of their larger footfall area. sadly, a matter of weeks after the review was penned and published, both candy pedals failed completely within one hour of each other. the offending part was the inboard needle bearing on both counts; the race in which those tiny bearings were held effectively disintegrated, in the process retarding normal pedal spin.
the candy pedals had not seen a lot of wear; two months at best, and it was something of a disappointment to experience such failure. i e-mailed the folks at crank brothers in the usa to suggest (based on no engineering knowledge whatsoever), that if they replaced the inboard needle bearing with a cartridge version as fitted to the outboard end of the axle, the problem need not have happened. perhaps unsurprisingly i received no reply from crank brothers. i did, however, receive a very healthy reply from 2pure, who immediately dispatched a rebuild kit for the pedals. though a tad short on instructions, it supplied all the necessary bits to repair the pedals quite easily with a minimum of mechanical or technical knowledge.
crank brothers pedals are designed to be easily dismantled and reconstructed.
since being rebuilt, they have given no trouble whatsoever, allowing me to stand by my original review, relatively safe in the knowledge that the failing was more an accident of life rather than a serious design fault. as if to underline this fact, the similarly equipped eggbeaters have given not one iota of trouble in the two years they have been in continuous service. however, my tale of woe is not yet over, for there is no accounting for incompetence on behalf of the reviewer.
after having rebuilt the candys and affixing them to the cielo, for a long while, all was well with the world until one of those untreaceable creaks reared its ugly head. when untraceable became traceable i discovered that one of the two bolts holding the pedal cage together had opted to spend its time somewhere else. the creak was from the movement engendered by this lack of pinning. i therefore e-mailed steve in warranty at 2pure to ask if such a bolt was available; two days later a replacement set arrived in the post.
though this narrative refers entirely to the folks at 2pure who have been superb in their after care for one of their distributed products, it is often a feature of those in the cycle industry that they tend to go one better than absolutely necessary in the service of their customers. this i know from anecdotal evidence from other riders. and also from anecdotal evidence, i know that several other industries are less well disposed towards its customers.
it's why we, as cyclists. more often get to live happily ever after.
saturday 8th september 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
anoraks are the very items of clothing we wore at school. or at least, that which i wore at school. i had a nice blue one which, in the early sixties (i don't look old enough to remember that do i?) had a beatles patch affixed by my mother. it was the ultimate in cool, or at least it was until i left the house. i think the beatles patch arrived courtesy of several box tops form rice krispies packets and was sewn on the top left of the anorak.
i have no real idea whether there is a specific definition that constitutes an anorak, but the rohan catalogue that arrived in today's mail mentions not once the word anorak. everything is referred to as a jacket leading one to suspect that the term anorak is now persona non-grata. this is, perhaps, not a great surprise to most of us, for while at school, those who spent their spare time standing on railway station platforms writing down engine numbers were disparagingly also known as anoraks. this doubtless was in part a reference to their preferred mode of dress, though it does beggar the question as to why the modern equivalent train-spotter is not referred to as a jacket or a fleece.
as i grew up, the blue jacket with its beatles sew-on patch gave way to several others of larger amplitude, the only one of which i recall was bottle green with a full length velcro fastening. this latter feature was marvellous for opening in the school library, much to the consternation of the librarian.
aside from the necessity of an anorak being at least modestly water-resistant, the species had to have a hood, permanently fixed or otherwise. few modern variations seem to possess the accoutrement, perhaps suggesting why they are now called jackets.
the alternative definition followed me all the way to my sixth year at school, not as a personal appellation, but through my choice of subject for sixth year art. having pulled a blinder by choosing modern commercial aircraft to occupy my meagre illustrative talents, i spent over half my week at the adjacent airport, sometimes drawing and photographing planes, sometimes not. those who were aware of my frequent visits and inhabited the anorak quality of aircraft spotters frequently asked that i write down the numbers of anything that might set foot on the runway, rather undermining the basis of the whole affair in my opinion.
though i have yet to see anyone at the roadside with either a camera or notepad recording the name on the downtube of any passing cyclist, i know that cycling anoraks exist, because i am one myself. several times when on the citylink coach to glasgow, i have caught myself noticing cyclists slogging along the shores of loch lomond and straining to note what make of bicycle the coach was about to pass. and in recognition of the fact that i am not the only cycling anorak in the world, richard moore and daniel benson have edited a sizeable volume to satisfy the craving for infinite detail and copious amount of photographs.
and they've called it bike! (their choice of excalmation mark, not mine).
in a similar manner to a carefully wrapped colnago on christmas morning, what's not to like? moore and benson have assembled a sterling crew of contributors well versed in the art of waxing lyrical about velocipedinal matters, including rohan dubash, john stevenson, peter cossins, ian cleverly and ellis bacon. individually they appear to have been given set tasks to undertake involving penning many an essential word about the great marques of the cycling world. these include gazelle, gios, campagnolo, de rosa, colnago, giant and one heck of a lot more. forty-three more to be precise.
the multitude of contributors have done their homework, providing copious snippets of information about well-known and less well-known manufacturers from the four corners of the modern world. these are augmented by some sterling photographs from days gone by, illustrating many a successful heyday belonging to bicycles and riders. there are, in the minds of many, not only iconic marques but iconic bicycles, several of which are isolated on double-page spreads with accompanying explanations of why they occupy such veneration.
these paragons of the peloton include cippolini's cannondale, an once giant tcr, boardman's lotus, a pegoretti (?), obree's old faithful, a lance trek and cav's venge. but at the risk of being hopelessly prejudiced, my favourite has to be the late franco ballerini's colnago c40 on which he won paris roubaix in 1998. this currently resides in ernesto colnago's museum under his house in cambiago. the bike is still caked with the mud it acquired over the cobbles.
bike! is not entirely without its foibles. the chapter regarding the german focus brand neglects to mention the usa national championship win of jeremy powers aboard a focus mares 'cross bike last season, though we can forgive the pinarello chapter being without note of wiggo's win in this year's tour. that, however, is always going to be a feature of any book of this type. while the great bicycle makers of the world have a chequered yet fabulous history, much of it is still in the progress of being made.
it does, however, allow for an occasional incremental update in the coming years.
for reasons i really don't understand, preceding the substantial index at the back of the book is a list of tour de france winners since its 1903 inception, thoughtfully then subdivided into wins by manufacturer, components and country. why? did the very same riders, bikes and countries not also compete in the giro and the vuelta, paris roubaix, milan san remo...? this is, i would tender, information that could be found elsewhere and wholly unnecessary here, serving only to aggrandise a three week tour that already has an ego the size of a planet.
much to its credit, and highly appropriately, the foreword to bike! is written by author of 'it's all about the bike-the pursuit of happiness on two wheels, robert penn. if anyone can be said to have explored the ins and outs of what makes the ideal bicycle, surely it is he? this is the ideal book with which to bring yourself up to date with cycling's rich heritage, one we're all supposed to know. an out and out triumph.
particularly if you're an anorak.
friday 7th september 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i should, currently, be hanging my head in shame. i have been distracted from the true path, partly through the occasional bouts of fine weather and likely just as much by shiny stuff that arrives via the local glasgow-islay carrier. a year round christmas if i'm completely honest. though the met office has ascribed the accolade of wettest summer on record for over a century to the last three months, uncharacteristically, the west coast of scotland has suffered far less than our eastern or southern counterparts. i'm pretty darned sure that this climatic favouritism will come back to bite us at a later date, or maybe it's an instant karma to pleasantly repay our stoicism after this january's storms.
or maybe not.
either way, every spare minute, i have been emulating a demonstration of explosive decompression. it need only suggest favourable riding conditions (and there are, in my opinion, very few unfavourable ones), and that back door is wide open and being escaped clad in bibshorts, jersey, helmet and cleats. the bike shed is in sore need of fettling to prevent its wooden panels from suffering from yet another inclement winter, the grass has not been trimmed quite as often as mrs washingmachinepost would prefer and i have stuck my head in the sand at the thought of all those other little chores that have been forcefully pointed out at completely inappropriate times of the evening.
i would not be alone in the notion that bicycles are for riding, a notion that beggars an appropriate answer as to why there is a colnago c40 sitting towards the rear of the bike shed with no pedals, a lack of joined up cables and a serious dilemma over which wheels would be most suitable. it is an academic discussion to be sure, for the colnago has sat in this condition for way too many weeks; but in my defence, i have other bicycles and shiny wheels that demand to be ridden, cycles that are ready and willing without needing a sympathetic ear. i am suitably ashamed of myself.
but those, if you don't mind me saying, are of circumstantial importance, for though i have already praised the weather perhaps more than is appropriate for one domiciled on the scottish west coast, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. this means that rain, wind and an agricultural environment are not always the kindest bedfellows to the average bicycle. purple harry does not exist in isolation; he has an important job to do, yet i have been derelict in my duty towards the hippo emblazoned character in scarcely having placed a cloth or spray in anything like a decent proximity to the steel and carbon that is the object of the majority of my waking hours (something of an admission in itself).
it is surely only a matter of years when i was praising my consistency in retaining a polished finish across the entire contents of thewashingmachinepost bike shed, and yet, only a smidgeon past the centre of the year, here i am admitting to my fecklessness in having ignored their well-being. the things to be done, purely in terms of bicycles, have accumulated at an alarming rate, including the necessity to build a pair of wheels before september ends.
why, you might ask, am i burdening you with my trials and tribulations? why, you ask politely, should you give a fig for my lack of moral fibre? the short of it is that you probably shouldn't, caring people though you may be, but in pointing out my own failings in the matter of bicycle fettling, i am hoping to invoke the mantra of do as i say, not as i do.
otherwise we're going to find ourselves with a nation of dirty bicycles, and that's hardly going to be a pretty sight.
thursday 6th september 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
during my brief art career, i was lucky enough to hold an exhibition in the maclaurin galleries in belleisle near ayr, for though i sold not a single canvas, their sizeable hessian covered walls made for a more than adequate backdrop for my abstract expressionist landscapes. these artworks were an order of magnitude larger than anything i had previously undertaken, one of the principal reasons why they remained unsold. acting on the advice of one or two gallery owners in edinburgh, i had become more expansive in my brushwork, not, i fear, my sole mistake, but one remarkably ill-judged.
you see, many of the townhouses in edinburgh city are blessed with sizeable walls, on which works the size of my exhibition would look not out of place. with an honours degree in hindsight, i realised that the smaller bungalows in the environs of ayr's fair town, had not only a greater area of window glass, but a correspondingly smaller set of walls. it is always possible that those viewing my paintings were indeed enamoured of their restricted palette and vigorous working; they may even have had sufficient funds in the family bank account to enrich my own, but had they done so, their problems would have only just begun.
however, as is usual in these scribblings, i have digressed. many months before any of this had transpired, a visit had been paid to the gallery to ascertain whether they felt well-enough disposed to allow my paintings to hang upon their walls. while waiting for the appointed time of my pre-arranged meeting with the gallery administrator, i took the opportunity to view the exhibition currently on show. though i have no recollection of the artist's name, i do remember that every single artwork was based upon a map of northern ireland. not, you will be pleased to hear, an ordnance survey, but a solid shape separated from its southern partner.
though i have presented myself in this case as a connoisseur of the visual arts, i must deflate that impression by remarking that it took several perusals before realising that the repetitive motif was the country only a few sea miles south of the shores i currently occupy.
repetition in the works of the masters is not at all unusual, something predominantly decided by the realisation that any particular motif presents more than one way of characterisation allied to an often simultaneous dawning that it will take several attempts to grasp that which can be seen in front of them. art is rarely just about pretty pictures. though i have concerned myself so far with the preserve of the artist with brush and paints, a similar objective occupies the mind and vision of all involved with the visual arts.
and that includes photographers.
few of today's professional cyclists are willing to take on three grand tours in a season; certainly not those who have designs on the general classification. though today's pros ride considerably fewer races than their antecedents of the sixties and seventies, the world of the three week excursion has changed sufficiently to re-focus their strengths on one or t'other. perhaps the highest profile rider to undertake two grand tours in a season is team sky's chris froome who, having successfully landed on the podium in paris, is currently fighting against the spaniards over very scary spanish mountains.
as far as team sky are concerned, both he and bradley have been outdone by the man employed to record their every move, triumph and darkest moments; scott mitchell. first called to the black bus for the tour of romandie, scott has subsequently been in demand for the giro, the tour and has now replaced his lens cap with a sombrero for the vuelta. it takes very little to realise that his repetitive motif is that of the grand bicycle race, a motif that one could reasonably have thought had been soaked dry by this point. scott's galleries on the team sky website completely undermine any such notion. how well is he bearing up under the strain of his third consecutive grand tour?
"Three Grand Tours are hard. On TeamSky only five members of staff have completed all three. For me personally post tour, I was so busy with several new cycling and music projects that I had little time to recover pre Vuelta. I worked it out a few weeks back that so far this year I have flown 18 times and had 22 train journeys. Mix in the mileage at three tours and you get the picture."
watching on the telly, while allowing for the differences brought about by national boundaries, perhaps the main thing most of us notice is a variation in team selection and a different colour for the leader's jersey. it can never be that simple for a photographer following the racing; each country is owner of its own particular light, landscape and language, all of which may be successfully captured by the true artist. have the spanish environs and light proved amenable to scott's lens(es)?
"Spain has its own character. The race is later in the year so the light is very contrasty. As a photography student I travelled through Spain, inspired by George Orwell. (a writer who has featured in Scott's visits closer to my home)"
amateurs such as myself find it a simple matter to point a compact lens before clicking an auto focus, a procedure that will more than likely result in a vague representation of the specified scene with some inadvertant blurring around the edges. if all goes according to form, the subject matter will be just a smidgeon too far away to be recognisable or, in some cases, identifiable. what the amateur is rarely successful at doing is capturing the atmosphere that imbues the whole affair, something the professional seems more than capable of achieving and making our own attempts even more desultory. in scott's opinion, is the atmosphere on the spanish race substantially different from the tour or giro, or is each tour much the same, but in a different language?
"A leading question, but yes of course it's different. Spain culturally differs a great deal from France and Italy and its reflected here on the Vuelta. I suppose the main differences for me are it is far more relaxed as far as access is concerned and the crowds are on the whole, generally all Spanish."
taking both the above questions into account, however, it cannot be denied that there is a definite and unavoidable repetition to much of the events surrounding each race and each stage of each. the work carried out by team staff on a daily basis is unlikely to alter much from italy to spain, and though the racing may alter for each tour, transfers between stages, hotel life and the mechanics' duties are all remarkably similar. the photographer, aside from a panoply of lenses and camera bodies has really only one method of recording all that he/she sees before him, making it difficult to keep the light shining brightly. scott mentioned earlier in this tour that he was finding the vuelta a bit of a challenge. does he feel the challenge has been met and conquered?
"I actually do. The TeamSky work has been the highlight of my career (so far). I have found out a lot about applying myself to long constant days and still wanting every image to be the best it can be. I am a better photographer now than pre-Romandie."
depending on where the team are staying overnight, mornings can be welcomed frighteningly early in the day, followed by several long hours for all concerned, scott not excepted. his workload during the tour de france involved the above, tailed by the race finish, jersey presentations, dinner with the team before settling down to re-visit the day's pixels, editing those that would subsequently appear on the teamsky website the following day. is his work schedule less punishing this time round, or are really late nights still part of the equation? "The late nights are my constant companion."
as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. though the world championships are still to take place later this month, as far as the world of the three-week tour is concerned, madrid is the end of the road. so far, teamsky have not requested scott's services at any of the one-day classics, and assuming all remains that way, he will be able to rest his shutter at the end of this week. what, therefore, is on the horizon for scott mitchell in the upcoming months?
"There is loads of really cool stuff coming up. There's a lot I just can't talk about at the moment, but I'm sure you can guess. I am also working with the brilliant musicians Steve Cradock and The Moons. In October, I have a shoot with a very hip clothing company which, as a mod, is very exciting for me.
"Once things calm down a bit, I will be producing limited edition cycling prints from this years' events."
for a man who was almost too quick to tell me at the beginning of the season that he was definitively not a cycling photographer, scott mitchell has gone a long way down the road of being accepted as one. his imagery, in my opinion, still surpasses that of many who are accredited as such, and has provided a thoroughly enlightening and welcome addition to the joys of watching cycling's three grand tours. i have great hopes that i may be able to bring you the fruits of at least one or two of those projects that are under wraps for the time being.
scott mitchell's photography will continue to adorn the teamsky website through to the end of the vuelta espana this weekend.
wednesday 5th september 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
there are moments when i feel i may have cause to reconsider. it was many years ago, during the armstrong years i believe (trying pathetically to bring some topicality to my wurdz), when cycling weekly and i fell out of love. though i don't doubt they are bringing their full weight to bear on the current set of circumstances that may see us with seven years of missing yellow, at the time, lance need only cough once or twice and there would be a special supplement in the comic. though i do have a smattering of ire that can be brought to the boil every now and again, the comic seemed to manage on a weekly basis.
i did attempt to contact the editor to make him aware that there were several other riders perhaps deserving of column inches. though each editor is within his/her rights to edit as they see fit, i think it particularly rude not to offer a reply to a missive specifically and personally addressed. still, that is water under the bridge, and though the selfsame editor is still advertised by his editorial and name on the staff list, i will attest to an apparent improvement in the contents. for this insight, i must thank debbie's cafe, where a copy is available every week for perusal by those of a pelotonic disposition.
though now augmented by one or two other fine sections within the comic's pages, the sole reason for my continuing to read it at all through the dark years was the off the back column by the inestimable michael hutchinson. i think it rare in this day and age to come across writing that is not only well constructed and displaying substantial intellect, but remarkably humourous at the same time. i may be in the position of updating thewashingmachinepost on a daily basis while dr hutch need do so only once a week, but i think he is under considerably more editorial guidance than i am ever likely to be. add to that, i'm not always trying to be funny; sometimes it just seems that way.
however, when michael is dressed in his masked avenger kit, he is one of the uk's finest and fastest time-triallists. if confirmation were needed, only last week he undercut the national record for a ten-mile time-trial with a large number of seconds under eighteen minutes. as i remarked to him at the time, i can't wash the dishes that quickly.
britain has a lengthy tradition of time-trialling originally brought on by a need to avoid mass start road racing in the light of a nationwide ban. the cloth cap and alpaca jacket aboard a regular steel road frame have given way to state of the art skinsuits, nasa style carbon aero helmets with tinted visors and an all carbon bicycle that not only cheats wind resistance, but stretches the credibility of more regular bicycle design. though we are often justifiably proud of our home-grown time-trial riders and their record-breaking speeds along anonymous dual carriageways, i feel it only right and proper to point out that many of the tour riders who can't time-trial are still faster than those of national repute.
in this year's tour de france, bradley was able to emulate jan ullrich by retaining a sense of decorum on the climbs, panicking not at any breakaway, and using his considerable and seemingly effortless power output to bring himself back to contention as the explosiveness went out of their charge. it was then a simple case of waiting until the time-trials and destroying any hope the climbers had of removing the yellow jersey from his shoulders.
then, mere days after the historic 99th tour finished, bradley's sideburns yet again grabbed the out and back by the scruff of its bibshorts and returned with a gold medal. for those of us with no real opportunity to practice the art of time-trialling on a personal basis, three definitive victories against the clock were tantamount to repetitive jaw-dropping. though chris froome wasn't exactly hanging about in last week's tt in the vuelta, he was sadly unable to emulate his tour team leader, but it would be unkind to aver that he let the side down.
all the preceding is testament to the rise and rise of the time-triallist, perhaps started by the usada castigated mr armstrong, but most forcefully underlined by brad and dr hutch. which presumably led to the half-page advert seen in this week's issue of the comic inserted by chelmer cycles. though i have never ridden a proper time-trial bike, i could perhaps be persuaded to give it a go by adverts such as this. while the bicycle (a cannondale slice) is undeniably tempting, it's the slogan plastered across its nether regions that are most persuasive...
...'because time-trialling is the new rock and roll'
tuesday 4th september 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................