cameras are the shape they are becasue up till relatively recently, that's the shape they needed to be. in the same way that water usually finds its own level, the camera evolved over the years as a result of technical and physical requirements allied to that of the ergonomic demands of professional photographers. the shutter button is most often placed at top right adjacent to the anatomically curved right hand side of the camera. this allows for one-handed shooting, though one does have to ask the obvious question as to just what the left hand is doing at that particular point?
the ergonomics, it has to be said, do seem to be heavily influenced by an implied amount of machismo. i think it unlikely that i'm the only one who views advertisements for the more professional offerings from the likes of canon, nikon, olympus etc. and is subsequently overcome with desire for just such an object. this despite the knowledge that i am a) not a competent enough photographer to need one in any case and b) simply not possessed of an overhwelming desire to take photographs in the first place.
add to that the fact that none will easily fit in the rear pocket of a cycle jersey.
a roll of film that needs to be exposed to incoming light from the lens in measured sections requires to roll from one side to the other. augment this requirement with the labour saving device of a motor drive, and there is now need for an appropriate housing for the latter, offering more opportunities for sculpted aggression. much like the motor car, the internals have an expressive influence on the externals.
however, the advent of digital obviated such mechanical needs, meaning that cameras no longer needed to conform to a physical straightjacket. i know this because for a while i had need of using one of kodak's early thoughts on digital photography, a device that, if memory serves, offered a resolution that failed to reach even one megapixel. its shape was that of a grossly oversized lozenge, one that effectively precluded any likelihood of single-handed picture taking. in fact, it also demonstrably argued against the free file sharing beloved of today's social media, encoding as it did, each and every image in a proprietary format, one that made it necessary to have kodak's own software to view the low resolution capture.
that feature, if one can describe it as such, is however, of little nevermind to the following narrative.
though keen to be included in the panoply of those who consider themselves artists, photographers are just as resistant to change as the rest of us, and the lack of wholesale adoption of ugly grey lozenges by the image brigade, seems to have forced the hand of the camera makers who simply adapted the bodies of their single lens reflex models to incorporate all those delightful digital pixels. as a result, with the somewhat obvious exception of camera phones, most of us will have little difficulty in harbouring a similar mental picture everytime the conversation turns to that of cameras.
it's a logical follow-on that inhabits many other traditional walks of life. there will be few over a certain age who do not remember the trusty can of three-in-one oil that sat on the shelf in your dad's shed. perennially half empty with its clear dustcap never replaced and a top that always featured a grainy oil film, it was the only way to keep that bicycle chain from getting rusty. it was also very handy for oiling the little sturmey archer gear chain and the hinges on the back door. believe it or not it still exists, and though i always regarded it as of british descent (no idea why) it was, in fact, first compounded in new jersey usa and is currently a part of the wd-40 stable.
three-in-one defines the archetypal oil lubricant, even though its efficacy has been added to by several synthetic products over the intervening years. unlike the world of digital photography, there seems little objection on the many strains of user, to demand that every lubricant invented since 1894 look exactly like three-in-one. a provider of cycle lubricants who has perhaps taken this differential to its extreme is that of dorset's muc-off. i have reviewed both wet and dry cycle lubricants from muc-off in previous years, but their latest offering has not only embodied technological evolution but a growing acceptance that colour is no impediment to efficacy.
muc-off's c3 ceramic lubricant is pink.
i cannot pretend that my rudimentary grasp of the scientific properties of your average lubricant is any greater than any other non-minerologist, so i can but resort to muc-off's own description: 'a formulation containing boron nitride compunds, fluoropolymers and nano ceramics for the ultimate, low friction drive chain'. that's easy for them to say. 95% biodegradable, the addition of boron nitride offers the likelihood of withstanding temperatures of up to 1200 degrees celsius, some 1193 degrees higher than the temperature on islay over the weekend.
the hardest test i personally can apply to the c3 lubricant is that of my humourously inadequate attempts at cyclocross. dead leaves, deep puddles, mud, grass, and gloop, the constitution of which i'd prefer not to discuss in polite company have invaded the chain's personal space on the condor bivio 'cross bike currently on loan for review. since, for the majority of my time off the beaten track, i am at the mercy of the environment in which i helplessly flail, i can almost guarantee that i am not armed with the skills to avoid much of that which would have destructive designs on the drive train's best interests. but to be honest, if i'm having fun, such ought surely to be of secondary consideration?
thus that poor, defenceless sram ten-speed chain has had to suffer the ignominy of an incessantly repeated yuk bath after only one measured dousing of muc-off ceramic pink chain lube. though i generally differ little from the rest of the cycling public in putting the bcycle in the shed without so much as a second thought for the condition of the chain post-ride, in the interests of composing an appropriate review of this brightly coloured product, i have maintained fastidious and frequent examination of the condor's drive train.
muc-off do not lie. despite less than friendly spatterings, the chain is still as noise and rust free as one would hope. in the regular day to day happenings of an incompetent, i'd be inclined to pop a spot of lube on each chainlink somewhat more frequently than has been the case here, but it is only right and proper that someone has to suffer for my art. the true test of any chain lubricant would more likely take place over a longer period than that i have described; new chains will almost always purr more softly than one several months old. however, i think it quite acceptable that an activity such as cyclocross on islay in the winter, offers the opportunity to accelerate that which would take longer on the road.
i therefore offer here my initial appreciation of pink liquid, while ministrations continue in the background, and i will try manfully to minimise the inevitable enjoyment in the name of scientific concern.
muc-off c3 ceramic lube can be purchased direct from muc-off at £8 for the 50ml bottle and £12 for the 120ml. it is also available from your nearest muc-off dealer.
monday 5th november 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
einstein's theory of relativitiy portends that nasa's astronauts who travelled into space and to the moon are seconds or minutes younger than they would have been had they remained on earth and watched the whole thing on telly. no doubt you have tried in vain to follow a science fiction storyline in one movie or another where an individual transported to a far point of the galaxy at faster than the speed of light has subsequently returned home to find all friends and relatives long dead and buried. though einstein wasn't particularly concerned with relatives in this sense, his all-encompassing theory sought to demonstrate that, relatively speaking, time passes more slowly at light speed than at our more regular timescale, even though for the hypothetical individual, all seems particularly normal.
in this respect, a calendar pinned to the spaceship wall with dental and coffee appointments scribbled in felt pen would differ greatly from those on the bikeshed wall at home. heaven (or einstein) only knows how those desk management systems would cope. you know the sort of thing where your secretary (you do have a secretary or personal assistant don't you?) makes appointments on your behalf back at the office and your personal digital assistant is correspondingly updated simultaneously. imagine the mess all this would be in were you to be travelling at light speed at the time. i'm not sure that microsoft have taken this into account with their entourage software, or indeed apple with its icloud updates.
though i was quietly confident of being on sure ground when i started this temporal exploration, it's beginning to mess with my head.
thankfully, einstein's theory also predicted that it would be impossible for us to reach the speed of light in the first place. the closer we get to 299,792,458 metres per second the greater the mass of the object being accelerated until that mass is too great to be accelerated any further. i'm sure this is a gross over-simplification on my part, but it will have to suffice for the time being. happily, in our current technological state, the only things we can promote to such magical velocity seem to be protons, electrons and all manner of obscure particles thereof.
can everybody say eddy higgs boson?
in the absence of being able to reach around three million metres per second, recording any form of meeting or appointment that one is likely to forget can still be marked with undoubted simplicity, using pre-formatted paper, spiral bound and stuck to the wall. in technological terms, it's referred to as a calendar.
in ruthless reality, this formatted set of paper sheets could be left in all its nakedness, providing twelve individual pieces with little numbered boxes, ready and waiting for illegible scribbles to form an abstract that would be a credit to jackson pollock. however, though simplicity is always the more considered option, when affixed to a wall, a decorative quality can hardly be seen as detrimental. and thinking particularly of the pelotonese, 'twould be no bad thing if such decor related to pictures of bicyclists.
midst all this talk of light speed and relativity, it is of great measure that at least something remains steadfast and reliable no matter the kerfuffle that continues all around. for the past seventeen years, mick and andy at prendas have been quietly having fun in deepest dorset, offering an excellent range of everything the contemporary cyclist might require, all the while maintaining a customer service that is second to none. and an annual part of their offerings to the great unwashed over the past few years has been the les memoires du peloton calendar, an item that has graced the wall just above my bedside table for more years than i can truly remember. a year wouldn't be a year without it.
happily, 2013 will be no exception. sporting an incredible selection of images from the library of photosport international, it will unlikely surprise you that pride of place on the cover is taken by bradley's sideburns riding next to sky departee, mark cavendish. we will all have our preferences as to which month will be stretched as long as possible, perhaps even forgetting to turn over the page for just that extra day or two. mine revolve around may (fausto coppi), july (tommy v on a bright yellow colnago c59), and september, with a young robert millar fronting the 1983 world's peloton in switzerland.
the pages below containing the dates, the ones that we're less interested in, have sufficient space to record power output, average heart-rate and two packets of digestives and a bottle of san pellegrino.
having now whetted your appetite, it only remains to let you down gently before you reach for your flexible plastic to order a dozen or so for you and all your acquaintances. les memoires du peloton will not be in stock at prendas until 19th november; in plenty of time for christmas. last year's was priced at £9.95 and i'd imagine the 2013 incarnation will sell for around the same amount.
form an orderly queue please.
sunday 4th november 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
in a couple of week's time, a gentleman by the name of dick hewitt will give an illustrated talk at the islay natural history trust on his visit to the island of tristan da cunha. it's a location that arrives with an air of mystery, having been oft mentioned in fictional pirate stories as well as a number of narratives related to the great explorers of yesteryear. as i've pointed out perhaps most injudiciously on several occasions, my grasp of world geography is rudimentary at best and downright appalling at worst. it will come as little surprise therefore, that i had no idea where i might find the island of tristan da cunha.
thank heaven for google maps.
according to the brief article in our local newspaper concerning mr hewitt's forthcoming talk, the island is quite literally the most remote location on earth, being 1700 miles from nearest landfall. look it up on google maps and zoom out only underlines this fact; by the time africa and south america hove into view on each side of the screen, tristan da cunha has all but disappeared from view. whimsically enough, the nearest island is officially known as inaccessible island.
though i wish not to promote a subtle scottish domination of the world, it seems its influence has reached even as far as this ultimately distant location; the principal township appears to bear the name of edinburgh by the seven seas.
the white shape on google maps provides only an indication of the island's outline; unlike many a central european or north american location, there are no geographical details whatsoever. however, it is accompanied by a short series of photographs which show it to be an island with not only dramatic sea cliffs, but almost verticaly verdant slopes leading to the peak of what i hope is a dormant volcano. it would be difficult to imagine the topography without the aid of these photos defining the physicality of tristan da cunha, but in the process, removing just a smidgeon of mystery. it is now hard to imagine captain jack sparrow mooring his pirate ship alongside a rickety wooden pier now that i've seen the contemporary shacks midst the greenery of the mountain slopes.
to all intents and purposes, the tuscany region of italy evokes similar imaginings. thankfully, for reasons of reputation and credibility, i have a far better idea of where tuscany is, and i most certainly know where italy is situated in relation to the rest of europe. along with that, i have seen youtube and vimeo movies of the tuscan roads, mostly featuring cloudless blue skies, shimmering heat and rolling countryside that makes islay's agriculture look positively rugged by comparison. that seems a realistic if somewhat innocuous likeness. reading stories of fausto coppi and gino bartali, it is not hard to have mental pictures of two of history's greatest cyclists training in such idyllic surroundings. add to that the numerous cycling holidays offered for the more intrepid or languid amongst us, and tuscany has already provided its business card by reputation if not actuality.
it's a scenario that is comfortably reinforced by the catalogue that accompanied the le coq sportif knitted merino jersey that forms a part of the l'eroica range. the cover alone, depicting a group of short sleeve and shorts suited cyclists adds its ten lire's worth to my own assimilation; you can feel the warmth emanating from the page. that makes it infinitely harder to reconcile the l'eroica aura with the grey clouded skies outside my sitting room window, now settled slightly from the gale force winds that rattled nearby garden gates all through the night and saturated the ground with seemingly endless rain. no fear of a hosepipe ban round here.
however, i rather think that's the point. the le coq sportif l'eroica jersey brings its baggage along with it, baggage which i am more than welcome to reclaim. the likelihood of my visiting italy's tuscan region in the foreseeable future is unfortunately less than promising. the tailoring, fit and colours inherent in the merino would have anyone reaching for a leather helmet, goggles and a pre-1987 bicycle. the leather helmet were it not for the fact i was already wearing a le coq sportif branded casquette to match the jersey.
le coq sportif made a widely heralded return to the peloton in this year's tour de france, accompanied by an excellent accompanying range of leisure wear linked to their history with le grande boucle. i asked billy gentry of lcs why they'd chosen l'eroica to follow yellow in paris. "As a brand which continues to honour its vast cycling heritage, 2012 has seen Le Coq Sportif sponsor L'Eroica for the third year. l'Eroica with its entirely different ethos to modern events on the cycling calendar, wholly embracing the vintage cycling spirit and its cycling fans, the race provides the perfect partnership for Le Coq Sportif."
the world of cycling apparel has gone virtually full-circle, leaving behind the wool of the sixties and seventies in favour of polyester, only to find itself now adopting the miracle product of new zealand merino wool. there can be few cycling related garment providers in the known universe who do not have at least one merino item in their range. the l'eroica range of jerseys is fashioned entirely from merino. was that always the intention, or had le coq sportif considered any man-made fibres?
"The jerseys are made from 100% knitted merino wool to provide a flashback to the first jerseys of the tour de france made by Le Coq; the authentic retro-inspired woolen jerseys provide a nod to the traditional period outfits and accessories worn in the golden era of cycling that inspired L'Eroica."
most of today's cycle jerseys inhabit one of two distinct paths; those that strive for modernity, technicality and just a soupcon of robocop. the others often pay more than a passing nod to the past, encapsulating design from a different era that is no less valid today than it was in its heyday. a rummage through graphic design from the fifties and sixties will often elicit an ethos that finds much of contemporaneity somewhat lacking in depth and direction. what inspired the designs in the l'eroica range? are they from any specific vintage jerseys or perhaps colours that reflect the ride for which they were designed to celebrate?
"The designs are inspired by cycling outfits from the '60s, when Le Coq previously sponsored the Tour de France, with a collar to the side, original zip, buttoned pockets on the back and large contrasting stripes. A range of trend-led colours adorn four of the new Autumn-Winter 2012 jerseys: sky blue, Olympian blue, navy blue and chalk with hints of cumin and botanic green. The original jersey of the Italian cycling tour and a colour block version in retro burgundy and chalk complete the range."
in the absence of any specific direction accompanying the review sample, i thought it prudent to push the jersey into working service on the bike. with islay somewhat lacking in tuscan sunshine, blue skies and ambient heat, i paired it with merino wool armwarmers, something that le coq sportif might like to consider as a part of their l'eroica range. granted, merino armwarmers will never speak italian countryside to any prospective purchaser, but one has to temper idealism with pragmatism, and matching arm colours would be more than welcome.
the jersey is not comprised of heavy merino, making it an ideal summerweight garment as well as one that comfortably fits under a windshell or waterproof. this is important, as the discerning cyclist will tell you, for on entering a coffee establishment of repute, removing one's outer jacket ought not to profess a dishevelled cyclist. if boxes require to be ticked, this particular one is completed with ease. hard riding in the saddle is also accomplished with ease; the zip provides simply accessed ventilation along with a more than decent relaxed and insouciant appearance when desired. the small, buttoned rear pocket could hardly be described as capacious, but it will digest a mobile phone, compact camera, keys or perchance loose change for coffee and a cheese and tomato toastie.
are the jerseys that comprise the range intended as performance items, or is the leaning more towards leisure wear? "The L'Eroica jerseys are more orientated towards leisure wear as L'Eroica is targeted at cycling enthusiasts rather than elite level performance riders; however the jersey maintains the traditional performance jersey features such as the zip and pockets on the back for practicality when cycling."
if you've cast a glance towards the jersey in question, you'll notice the white hoop is bordered by a maroon hoop on top and a pale blue example below. not unsurprisingly, one had worries regarding colour seepage when the jersey was carefully placed (you didn't think i'd throw it in did you?) in the washingmachine. it wouldn't be the first time that sort of occurrence had taken place. however, washed and dried flat, the jersey looks exactly as it did when it arrived; an important sartorial feature i think.
there's little doubt that jersey and cap would be happier in the tuscan warmth than sheltering from atlantic gales, but in truth, that's their problem, not mine. these are high quality items that inhabit the milieu to which they pay tribute. if a short sleeve merino jersey is not the ideal apparel for your next bike ride, it is equally at home over a long-sleeve baselayer while slouching on the couch supping milky froth. i've a mind to share between both opportunities. it says cyclist without also saying i've just spent the weekend in the mclaren wind tunnel scoping out my drag co-efficient".
in a word, l'eroica.
giancarlo brocci designed the first route of the legendary race in '97, with the aim of introducing people to his native region of tuscany. in the space of just a few years, l'eroica became an essential meet for vintage cycling fans as they headed off in dscovery of a wealth of tuscan culture.
saturday 3rd november 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
on this past tuesday eve, bbc2 scotland televised the braveheart thunderdrome event from the recently opened sir chris hoy velodrome in glasgow's east end. the latter was constructed as part of the infrastructure for glasgow's hosting of the 2014 commonwealth games, possibly the final international competition in which sir chris is likely to compete. perhaps not entirely unexpectedly, the lure of the corporate dollar has already made its presence known; the velodrome has, almost two years ahead of its primary purpose, already become a part of the emirates arena. the contract that resulted in this speedy re-naming of the complex, will last until 2022 except, bizarrely enough, during the 2014 commonwealth games.
no, i don't understand that either.
scotland's only access to anything remotely resembling a velodrome previously rested with the outdoor track at meadowbank in edinburgh which has, i am led to believe, seen better days. couple that with a propensity for scottish weather to contain substantial amounts of precipitation, and it is of great testimony to the stoicism and determination of the likes of sir chris hoy, craig mclean and graeme obree that here is a country that does substantially better at track events than the available facilities would suggest. the construction of what appears to be a state of the art velodrome north of the border seems likely to provide a shot in the arm to an undeniably competitive country.
aside from the fact that centralisation of the bbc administration in london made it well nigh impossible to find the broadcast on bbc iplayer (i was banished to the upstairs room. emmerdale has apparently been made sacrosanct in mrs washingmachinepost's human rights charter) i can't help but think the recent tour de france and olympic road and track successes brought an appropriate impetus to bear in the quest to provide the day's racing on our televisions. better still, though confined to a regional variant, bbc2 is surely a mark of cycling's popularity when there are two lesser bbc channels to which it could have been delegated. on a less satisfactory note, one wonders from where on earth they found the two presenters?
the thunderdrome event replaced the more usual braveheart ride, a 70km traipse through the roads surrounding kilmarnock in ayrshire. i have partaken of this on at least three separate occasions, and most enjoyable it has been too, the ideal lead-in to the braveheart dinner and auction held in the park hotel in kilmarnock later that same day. alcoholic beverages play a disproportionate part in this annual fundraiser, though i can't help but think this is a deliberate ploy to loosen personal grasp on several personal chequebooks.
though i was unable to attend the thunderdrome in person, to a certain extent, this is not germain to my present diatribe; it is surely the fact that an event in its initial incarnation, untried and untested, was deemed the ideal subject for televisualisation. if you still harboured any doubts as to the esteem in which cycle sport and cycling in general has come to be held, i'd hope that this might cause you to have second thoughts. perhaps the only quizzical omission was that of the flying scot, graeme obree. apparently unable to borrow his original old faithful bicycle from the scottish transport museum, graeme pedalled a few demonstration laps of the new velodrome before dismounting to answer questions.
in extra curricular footage i've seen of the event, at the point of dismounting and turning to converse with his interlocutor, a bbc cameraman was in close proximity with lens pointed squarely at obree. yet the broadcast never so much as acknowledged his presence in any way shape or form. it is important to acknowledge the magnificence and appropriateness of this new facility, in tandem (see what i did there?) with portraying the contemporary practitioners of the sport, but it is also less than palatable to ignore from whence today's young stars gained their inspiration.
and today's young stars garnered an appropriate amount of coverage during the broadcast, as indeed they should, for supporting today's youngsters is the principal reason for the existence of the braveheart fund in the first place. the thunderdrome team sprint augmented the more usual three man team with a fourth; in this case, four specifically chosen young riders to lead off each team (scotland, england, europe and braveheart). and as the event preceded and intermingled with the scottish national track championships, kids around a third of my age but three times as fast received their fifteen minutes of fame.
if the sir chris hoy velodrome fulfils even a percentage of its importance to scottish cycling, there will be no need to retire those saltires from view in rio de janiero and beyond. the opportunities and possibilities have been kindly handed to scottish cycling on a plate. i doubt either are in danger of being squandered.
however, why can we not have a dedicated scottishcycling.org website rather than being simply a pixelated appendage to that of britishcycling? though i have my doubts about the desirability of national independence, surely the least tribute we could pay to the crowning of sir chris hoy as our greatest olympian ever, is to offer scottish cyclists independence from manchester now that we have a velodrome of our very own?
friday 2nd november 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
at the start of next week, i and several others from my regular place of work will be participants (i can think of no ther word) in the sort of discussion that is bound to include my most hated phrase of the moment: 'moving forward'. taking over from iniquities such as finger on the pulse, it is what it is and a win, win situation, it seems that any discussion about business possibilities will include the phrase moving forward or going forward, frequently without regard to any grammatical consequences. i'm inclined to think its usage has placed it outside of the contextual, a cliche that most are unaware of using.
there is a modest degree of soul-searching that took place before putting fingers to keyboard, if only to ensure that i'm not guilty of using a comparable faux pas in my daily conversations, but then in such context, surely i'd be unaware of it is i was? as if there weren't enough things to be concerned about.
while there are plenty of tasks to occupy my waking hours between now and monday morning, a reminder of the necessity to attend arrived in my inbox this morning, containing this opening line from the consultant who will facilitate the meeting;
though you may wonder why i would find such an innocuous opening gambit to be so objectionable, may i point out that this is a man whom we have met only once before, several months past, and even then for only a matter of minutes. why he now feels himself to be a colleague is something of a quandary. can everyone say patronising? which rather leads me onto the subject of the pelotonese and our relationships with each other.
in recent years, islay has become something of a magnet for cyclists, and not just the touring cyclist of yore. many are the saturday lunchtimes when i have sat myself on one of the tall bar stools at debbie's coffee bar, staring aimlessly out the window at the view across loch indaal, when such reverie has been interrupted by the sight of a lycra clad mini-peloton passing in one or other direction. those who have had the need or good sense to stop off for a coffee and vittles have invariably been invited to join us for the velo club sunday morning ride, and on occasion i have availed myself of the opportunity to play hooky midweek and join one or two for a ride.
in these latter occasions i feel honour bound to play the part of the good host and provide occasional commentary on that which we are passing through or passing by. of course, i have not had the decency to enquire as to whether my accomplices are desirous of my travelogue, but so far none have demonstrated this not to be the case by riding off into the wide grey yonder (ok, there you go, that's a phrase i have used more than once). but should i subsequently find myself in the company of the same pelotonese only a few weeks later, i cannot truthfully state that i'd be inclined to refer to them as colleagues. such is my memory for names that it's very unlikely i'd be able to recall who it was i'd been riding with in any case. in fact, if you promise not to be too surprised or dismayed, assuming some of you may well be identifiable amongst the above, i have often managed to forget names even during the course of the ride.
mind you, i could probably remember the marque of cycles being ridden.
have i been guilty of a massive social blunder? a breach of etiquette no less? is there a formality to which i should have adhered when addressing or referring to those unlucky enough to have sheltered me from an islay headwind? are you, indeed, colleagues, now recoiling in horror that i should have the temerity to think otherwise? many are the rules of cycling, both written and unwritten, mandates that ought to be at least given pannier room by the cognoscenti. is it perhaps time, in these days of modernity, networking and polo necks and trainers in the boardroom, to define how a nominated leader in the saddle ought to address the minions speeding in his/her clipless footsteps? and concomitantly, how they too ought to refer to their figurehead?
i think it possible that such matters could be comfortably dealt with moving forward.
thursday 1st november 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
"I had no idea you were going to be this good this soon." rob hayles
"I did." mark cavendish.
i'm not much one for the cycling strategy as it pertains to the professional peloton. that is what brian smith and robert millar are for. my job, as i see it, is simply to sit on the sidelines like the rest of you, watching all unfold from afar and pointing out why i would never have done that. something akin to my father's armchair football antics. for even if i subsequently repeat my moans in pixels, i live too far away for any of you to throw things at me.
thus, the combination of bradley wiggins and mark cavendish in the one team was likely something doomed to failure from the start. i have undertaken some tentative research to discover which of the two was signed first; recollection would have it that cavendish signed upon the dotted line before bradley. this would, i think likely, have given him the confidence that here was an entire team at his disposal for perhaps the longest leadout train in living memory. no doubt peta had already cleared an appropriate space in the wardrobe for the tour's green jersey. then along came brad (if i have the signings in the wrong order, it only lends credence to my opening contention.)
history would teach us that having a gc contender and a jersey possible in the same team was never going to be a good idea; cast your mind back to the telekom team of the late nineties, when ullrich was vying with lance and marco for top step on the podium, all the while dealing with the disparity that zabel had his eye constantly on green. from the point of view of a win in paris, whatever regard in which we now hold big tex, his 'one for all and one for all' strategy was/is the undoubted singular way to put the other teams on the backfoot.
whichever way the signings proceeded, cavendish would have realised that his green ambitions would be of secondary importance. assuming bradley was in the ideal position to own yellow into paris, there would be few opportunities to construct an appropropriate lead-out train for mark. it is, of course, rather of academic interest as of now. though i have read that wiggins has stated his unwillingness to try and defend his tour title in 2013, mark cavendish has already left the sky fold to keep tomke company at omega pharma quick-step where his jersey aspirations will likely be taken into greater consideration. or, at least i assume that his knowledge of team strategy will have had such incorporated into his contract.
in all the adulation that has been fired in the direction of bradley wiggins, the achievements of mark cavendish have surely been overshadowed since those three weeks in july. impressive stage wins in this year's edition, one of which was the record breaking and simultaneously breathtaking fourth consecutive victory on the champs elysees, would generally have been sufficient to put a shine on anyone's helmet, but all the features and pictures and tour specials that invaded the daily papers, the comic and the cycling monthlies were (perhaps quite naturally) of a yellow hue. the much vaunted olympic victory in the road race was somewhat doomed from the start, after team gb effectively telegraphed the day's tactics in advance.
i cannot but mention that it seems a tad naive to blame the other nations for subsequently riding defensively and failing to support cavendish in his golden yearnings.
as a lifelong robert millar fan, it is the true grimpeurs that hold my attention. a tiny bit of my insides finds the role of the sprinter to be one of the less admirable niches in contemporary cycle sport. it is (for me) hard to admire a rider who specifically depends on at least three or four other team-mates to get to the line first. however, while watching mark cavendish - born to race, i cannot but admit to a sense of admiration as cavendish left all others trailing in his wake. yet, such moments are few and far between in this truly excellent dvd documentary.
i have little doubt that an intensive trawling of youtube would find any number of re-runs of cavendish crossing the line at speed with two arms held aloft. his almost surprising win in the 2011 milan-sanremo is one that bears repetition without ever becoming tired. cavendish may well be the self-styled fastest man in the world, but like super mario in his day, he rarely misses the opportunity to back it up. born to race however, shows an entirely different mark cavendish; a man with a comfortable lifestyle. a lovely wife and baby and who trains behind a world championship branded and signed motorbike under the spirited control of rob hayles.
the latter comes across as the true father figure in the sense that dave brailsford does not. cavendish recalls his youthful days in the isle of man cycling club under the watchful eye of mike kelly, a man he thought well enough of to present with a signed world championship jersey, even after all the years that intervened. his personality is considerably more intelligent and considerate than his on-bike, occasionally arrogant persona would suggest, to the extent of exhibiting obsessive compulsive symptoms in regard to packing his suitcase and the positioning of mugs in his capacious kitchen cupboards. hayles apparently delights in turning the kettle the wrong way round in order to wind him up.
it will be interesting to see how cavendish moves forward on having separated from his sprint aides; bernhard eisel and rob hayles, for though this film is all about cavendish, rob hayles' role in his sporting life is well made. to his credit, cavendish did not seem simply resigned to his secondary role in team sky's tour team, but quietly and logically in acceptance, bearing no ill will to either bradley or brailsford. though this bears the mark of a true professional, i'm not sure that were i in his shoes, i would have been quite so docile about the fact.
times have changed sufficiently that cyclists, particularly of late, british cyclists, are no longer seens simply as boys with their carbon toys, playing in the backyards of europe. cavendish's accession to the bbc sports personality of the year throne could be possibly marked out as the beginning of the beginning, where those racing on two wheels began to be accepted on the same level as golfers, footballers, cricketers and the more traditional british sportsperson. such celebrity brings with it the demanding trappings associated with all facets of the thrust-upon. the documentary shows cavendish enjoying rather than enduring a clothing photoshoot for esquire magazine, all the while being well spoken of by his pr representatives, claire louise and simon. i would think there is many a celebrity who causes far more grief for their pr people than does cavendish.
many are called upon to testify to cavendish's personality and work ethic, both in relation to contemporary times and that of his career to date: bradley wiggins, the aforementioned rob hayles, dave brailsford, rod ellingworth, mike kelly, geraint thomas and peter kennaugh. mrs cavendish, better known as peta todd is particularly self-effacing; they make for a remarkably ordinary couple, despite the trappings that come with two succesful and lucrative careers. and it perhaps goes without saying that both are dedicated to the wellbeing of their newborn daughter's future.
cavendish mentions that other riders told him that once he had a child, he'd find it harder to spend weeks at a time away from home, but on the contrary, he says that this has made him all the more determined to spend those times doing everything in favour of delilah. as he correctly points out, it's his job and he'd be away from home anyway; this gives him an even greater sense of purpose. that being the case, it would seem prudent to keep an eye on omega pharma quick-step in 2013.
though commencing his career on the road, the early years were filled with substantial success on the track, particularly memorable for his uci world championship win in the madison with partner bradley wiggins. as one of the few tipped riders to walk away from the 2012 olympic games without any colour of medal, cavendish makes known his ambition to join the track team as brailsford's other boys commence training for rio de janeiro in 2016. and despite my misgivings over the amount of media attention paid towards bradley wiggins, deservedly or otherwise, the man himself comes across remarkably well during his few cameo interviews. he genuinely seems embarrassed that the whole of team sky's tour team was placed at his disposal, rather than diverting their attentions occasionally towards cavendish.
it is not entirely unnatural that we judge our cycling stars by the way we see them perform on the track or on the road. that's their job after all; they are a part of the entertainment industry. however, in much the way that certain comedians are found to be humourously wanting when not on stage and far away from a script, we have no right to expect anything of these athletes when they are off-duty. mark cavendish is a credit to his profession in every conceivable way; yes, he can come across as arrogant or belligerent on the bike, but it's unlikely he'd own such an illustrious palmares were the situation otherwise.
a reviewer is often placed in something of an awkward situation. in order to maintain a level of fairness and equanimity, i find myself reviewing books and dvds that i'd perhaps be unlikely to choose if left to my own devices. i'm happy to admit that mark cavendish - born to race would not have been my first choice of dvd for christmas, in which case i would have been extremely remiss, for it is truly an excellent documentary that ought to be watched by everyone with an interest in cycling and probably a substantial number who patently are not. though i may be at risk of airing my prejudices in public, i think it unlikely that a similar portrait of a top footballer would a) have lasted the 83 minutes that born to race manages, and b) proved such an intelligent and entertaining hour and twenty-three minutes.
that's one of your christmas presents sorted.
"if you could have won an olynpic medal in any discipline other than cycling, which would it have been?
"women's beach volleyball."
'mark cavendish-born to race' is available from monday november 5th on universal pictures dvd for only £13.99
wednesday 31st october 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
'because every fluid used on your bike ends up in the environment'
no doubt there is some secret reason as to why the uk changes from british summertime to british wintertime (gmt) at some bizarre time of a sunday morning. this is usually at 1am; folks who are still up and about at that time are quite likely not sufficiently in command of their own senses to make the decision to put their watches or clocks back by one hour. no doubt, somewhere buried in the filing cabinet in brussels, is an edict from the european union mandating that such alterations of an horological manner ought to take place at the most inconvenient hour deemed appropriate.
obviously, we got 1am.
though the official adjunct to contemporary time is greenwich mean time, if its precedent is that of british summer time, i think it only appropriate that we denote this current period as british wintertime. if ever there was an accurate naming of a forthcoming season, bwt was most definitely it. there has been scarcely a sunday morning in recent memory when the velo club has not occupied its pre-coffee time with an appropriate perambulation of the estates, several of which would have been more suitably employed in front of the telly with slippers on both feet.
however it would, i believe, be tantamount to capitulation to open the bedroom curtains on the first day of wintertime, accept the quantitative amounts of precipitation and gale force winds and go back to bed. therein do not lie the roots of stoicism. ok, i will admit that i did consider the lazy option for several minutes, minutes that may or may not have been cogitated under the 15tog king-size duvet. however, if questioned in company, i will deny the episode ever took place.
in the very best of tv dramas, there is often a brief recourse to what the movie industry refers to as non-linearity, a scene of interest which is delightfully out of chronological order. it's a lot harder to do in the written word, particularly with regard to the confused narratives that occupy these pixels. but, in for a penny, in for a pound; non-linearity it is.
on the saturday afternoon, when british summertime was still tentatively in force, i opted to coat the eleven speed campagnolo chain on the shand skinnymalinky currently in the bikeshed for review purposes, with the newly received (on saturday afternoon, in fact) green oil white super dry chain wax. i lead a sheltered life in the henrides, so while chain wax is not entirely unknown to me, i will cheerfully admit to having never attempted to benefit from its properties on any previous occasion, and certainly not the product from green oil.
the latter has been lubricating the chains and moving components of bicycles for a number of years. i have come across their products at one or two editions of the annual cycle show, but for reasons that escape and embarrass me, i have not investigated further. contrition is mine.
an erstwhile employer of my services was often heard to say "do not assume; it makes an ass out of you and me". therefore, it would be naive to second guess whether the chain of a review bike had been coated in anyhting other than the thin film of grease used to protect the chain in its packaging. as the skinnymalinky had, up to this point, been ridden in pleasantly dry conditions, was really no good reason to have left this essential piece of maintenance entirely to chance. therefore, the chain got lubed with wax.
if i might now return to the appropriate present, the sunday morning in question encapsulated the first day of winter more than adequately. the only thing truly missing was a fluttering of snow. though considerably depleted due to the weather, the sunday ride left only lord carlos and i to uphold the velo club reputation of partial insanity, ploughing through atrocious rain and gale-force winds for no other reason other than a warm cappuccino at the end. it is the hebridean way.
rain of that stature, applied in close proximity to the atlantic ocean, forced into every nook and cranny by a driving wind would normally have recoloured a shiny silver chain a rather attractive shade of techno orange. not the end of the world, i'm sure you'll agree, but somewhat undesirable nonetheless. unless, of course, you've had the perspicacity to previously apply some green oil super dry chain wax. which, of course, i had.
to verify not only the mechanical skill deftly dropped link by link onto vicenza's finest, but the efficacy of same, i've just been out to thewashingmachinepost bikeshed to check the condition of said chain. considering the travails through which the chain has been put, the word immaculate would be perhaps overstating the case, but you would surely agree that its dull sheen (predominantly due to the white wax) is of greater comfort than techno orange. the fact that it had again started raining when i popped out to the shed would foretell of many more periods of british wintertime to come, at which time, not only will i fear not for my chain, but for the health of the environment through which i am attempting to speed.
the folks at green oil portend that dry lubes tend to remain upon the chain links for less time than wet lubes, however, given the weather that i expect to meet on a daily basis, this is truly of no nevermind, since the chain will be lubricated regularly enough that periods of lubricationlessness need never rear their ugly ferrous oxide. the white wax lube is apparently popular with commuters due to a propensity not to leave stains upon errant trouser legs. it's also biodegradable due to the incorporation of beeswax and bioethanol made from sugar in the formula.
but it's not just the lubricant that's recyclable; so is the container in which it arrives, for which green oil offer ten pence if returned, or which certain retailers will refill with a ten or twenty pence discount. in my mind, that's not half bad for a chain lubricant that has assistend my passage through the first day of british wintertime.
100ml of green oil white super dry chain wax costs £6.99 and is available from a green oil dealer near you.
tuesday 30th october 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................