much as i would love to have myself identified as a dedicated follower of modern technology, in truth i find myself rather ambivalent towards most of it. yes, i like my apple computer, but to be honest it's mostly because i can sit down (in that comfy leather armchair i've mentioned once or twice) do whatever work is necessary, then close the lid and go do something else instead. i find myself safe in the knowledge that when i open it up again later, almost without fail, everything will be working exactly as expected. i'm really not much into computers for the sake of it.
and once more, i think i'm probably still one of only two people in the world who doesn't own any sort of mobile phone, let alone one that is reputedly smart. this glaring ommission from my life, one that causes no end of surprise to those intent on selling me unrequired services for my non-existent phone, subsequently excludes me from joining the next evolution in wearable tech, namely the apple watch.
i confess i would dearly love to have that mickey mouse watch face looking up at me every time i glanced at my left wrist, but at several hundred pounds retail, i think it's a luxury i can live without. and without an iphone five or six secreted about my person, it would in truth be simply an attractive but rather expensive watch. there are other things, i believe, more deserving of my hard-earned cash (mostly bicycles and drums, since you ask).
in point of fact, i already own a particularly fine timepiece which has accompanied me over the past two years pretty much without complaint from either of us. it still keeps perfect time, offers the date each day, and the opportunity to time the kids as they run up and down the big hill at the end of our terrace. you would wonder who could really ask for more.
and just to add to the heurological frisson, there is even a concrete connection with the world of cycling; the name on the watch face is that of festina.
this particular model was one of several issued prior to the tour of britain in 2013; i chose the one with blue dials and a blue wrist strap because i'm parochial enough to think it most suggestive of scotland, thankfully still a part of britain. and festina continues its association with the tour of britain once again this year as official timekeeper, adding our home tour to those of the tour de france, giro d'italia and la vuelta where festina also holds the position of official timekeeper. though sponsorship of such events is designed to encourage us to buy into the connected world of velocipedinal activity; you scratch my back and i'll scratch yours, unless you have an overwhelming desire to have mickey mouse on your wrist, based on my two years' experience of the product, you could probably do a lot worse than fly the flag (if you catch my drift).
this flag, if i might extend the metaphor once more, has gained increased commitment from the watchmaker. aside from the national tour taking place next month, festina also sponsors the uk women's tour, the highly successful tour series, september's tickhill grand prix, the london nocturne and the current revolution series. for an international company to show such commitment to the british face of the sport can but underline the change that british cycle sport has undergone in recent years.
and if that were insufficient, if you're spectating at this year's tour of britain in september, keep your hands outstretched in the hope that they might grasp a festina emblazoned casquette. a perfect match for a tour of britain wristwatch.
monday 17 august 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
as i sit in my leather armchair writing these very words, i am most gratified that the guys at apple computer spent so very many hours on making my macbook air so slim, light and user friendly. concealed in a drawer in the spare room upstairs is a powerbook 150, an early apple portable computer that only just managed to slide in under the definition of portable. a few hours sat in an armchair with that on my knees had a distinct tendency to stop the blood flow to my feet.
depending on what subject i have decided to regale you with each day, very much dictates how long i remain sat in this armchair, macbook air on knees with only constant, repetitive movement from my fingers and hands. lengthy subjects frequently play havoc with my posterior, shoulders and neck. so much so, that i've been known to down tools midway through and pop through to the kitchen to wash the dishes, accompanied by my current jam of allen toussaint's the bright mississippi. otherwise there's a distinct possibility that i will creak quite a lot the following day.
paying particular attention to the fact that thewashingmachinepost is something i update every day because i enjoy it, i can see little disgrace in ensuring i have made myself as comfortable as possible in the process. this is a philosophy that i'm happy to carry over to the bicycle. i'm well past the point of having anything to prove, always assuming i had anything to prove in the first place, so if i want to have a brooks colt leather saddle on my cyclocross bicycle because it offers hitherto undreamt of, yet slightly cumbersome comfort, then that's my business.
however, comfort doesn't always relate well to ultimate speed. that's pretty much the thinking behind the perceived need for continued stiffness in modern carbon bicycle frames. you can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs. but somewhere along the line, there has to be a smidgeon of compromise, otherwise the hapless fellow in the saddle would be shaken to pieces in a matter of kilometres. so accepting that velocity and victory are bedfellows well acquainted with each other, any little creature comforts that can be accessorised along the way ought to be seen as a welcome palliative.
something like a pair of dromarti leather shoes, for instance.
renowned cycling photographer and somewhat masochistic cyclist, phillip hympendahl is this weekend, riding his cervelo bicycle in the paris-brest-paris randonneur, a distance of 1200km. to prepare for the event, aside from undertaking the necessary qualifying rides, hympendahl also rode a twenty-four hour race around germany's nurburgring motor race circuit. as if the prospect of twenty-four hours racing in circles wasn't enough of a struggle, the ride which took place on 30 july this year, was delayed due to a storm and extreme wind conditions, meaning phillip rode a tad fewer than twenty-four hours, likely made up for by the weather.
in the nurburgring race and when departing in paris-brest-paris today, hympendahl had/has his feet tightly laced into a pair of dromarti leather shoes, perhaps his only obvious concession to the comfort i mentioned above. like a brooks leather saddle, dromarti's leather has a pleasing knack of moulding itself to your feet and if cared for, tends to age gracefully and stylishly. to this i can testify, having ridden a pair of the original dromarti leathers for several years. the new ones, however, have a better (shorter) length of lace.
martin scofield, owner of dromarti, decided to support phillip in his endeavours because "I was looking for a photographer and it turned out every picture that I really liked was taken by Phil. We agreed to meet when he came over for his book launch at 'Look Mum No Hands!' and got on really well.
"The number of kilometres he gets in each year meant he was perfect to help with product development and testing, so when he spoke about his ambition to ride P-B-P, I was delighted to support him.".
i have no intention whatsoever of riding for twenty-four hours, let alone riding 1200km at a single sitting, but it's comforting to note that if a pair of dromarti shoes are up to that sort of thing, the featherweight punishment that you or i can deal out, ought to bounce off like water on polished leather. if i find out how hympendahl gets on between paris and brest, i'll let you know.
sunday 16 august 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i confess, i have done slightly more than think about it. with the cyclocross season scrabbling over the horizon with ever increasing alacrity, i have looked on the pages of a certain well-known cycling website at their bargains on last year's models. for those who've immediately jumped to the wrong conclusion, i do not mean i've considered entering any rounds of the scottish cyclocross season, but that which i have been thinking about will become all too apparent as the words scroll by.
just to create more confusion than is absolutely necessary, i already have a particularly fine cyclocross bicycle at the frontmost portion of thewashingmachinepost bike shed. exactly as it should be. that bicycle features an excellent pair of wheelsmith race 38 wheels shod with 38mm challenge gravel grinders, a chris king bottom bracket, a pair of fsa carbon cantilevers and a portland design works alexander graham bell. the latter comes in very handy when thundering through the flock of sheep that frequently inhabits the dunes of uiskentuie strand.
so, rule #12 notwithstanding, why would i want another cyclocross bike?
well, take a brief look at my even briefer spec list above and take note of the current means of stopping. everybody who is everybody knows that cantilevers are so old hat. today's professionals and enthusiastic amateurs have access to mechanical discs at least and hydraulics at best, neither of which are available to yours truly. and though that might not seem like too much of a disadvantage to a self-confessed non-racer, it does look like it may restrict review possibilities over the coming years, whether for road or cyclocross.
a recent press release from mavic, pointed out the qualities and enhancements on their latest ksyrium wheelsets, two of which feature disc-ready hubs. under my present circumstances, i had little alternative but to request a pair of the standard offerings. additionally, the eneco tour currently underway in belgium and its surrounds, has become the first battleground in the cunning plan to draft disc-equipped road bikes into the professional peloton over the next year and a half.
this does not, i must underline, signify a change of my opinion over the use of disc brakes on either road or cyclocross bikes. the latter genre has had legal use of such braking systems for about three years now and it's only latterly that those usually in favour of cantis have gradually succumbed to discs. this may have more to do with the manufacturers than the riders; i have my suspicions. though i've rarely heard any rider misgivings over their introduction in 'cross, it seems on the road there are still several who are less than convinced. and that still includes me. i cannot deny that those i have ridden worked particularly well, but so do most caliper systems.
however, they'll come anyway. i didn't want integrated headsets, i couldn't see the problem with square-taper bottom brackets and i sure as heck don't like the press-fit bb systems. unsurprisingly, nobody paid any attention, and i'm pretty sure i'll be completely ignored with respect to disc brakes on road bikes.
at least i'm consistent.
photos courtesy team roompot (top) and team sky (below).
saturday 15 august 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
islay house, situated in bridgend, was originally built in 1644 by sir hugh campbell of cawdor, though there have been more than just a few additions to that original building over subsequent years. once the stately home of daniel campbell from the mid 18th century, the campbells were declared bankrupt in 1847 and the house and its estates subsequently became the home of james morrison mp when he bought the isle of islay in 1853. the morrison family ended their association with the house in 1985 when it was sold to an american airline pilot.
more recently it has once again changed hands and is currently being remodelled as islay house hotel, an appropriately luxurious accommodation set in its own grounds at the top of loch indaal. though i've never counted them, it reputedly features 365 windows, one of which allegedly fronts a hidden room. this was apparently discovered to be the case when the servants in years gone by were told to hang a white hankie from every window at the front of the building. though they all seemingly occupied adjacent rooms to do so, there was still one window at which no-one stood. no white handkerchief was to be seen.
rapha's new enlarged rucksack apparently inhabits similar ground. admittedly this capacious and well crafted piece of dedicated cycling luggage does not feature any windows whatsoever, but it does purport to conceal a hidden compartment inside which is a fluorescent pink waterproof cover. that's what rapha's website would have you believe.
situated atop the rucksack, behind the carry handle, is a zipped pocket inside which, logically i would have said, the aforementioned waterproof cover ought to have resided. but in point of fact, this top pocket is intended for a set of keys, mobile phone or similar stuff, making it easier to gain entry to a car, van, hotel room or house without having to rummage through the many internal pockets and panels which will likely be filled with all manner of cycling-related accessories. i considered the possibility that the waterproof cover had been ommitted and i searched in vain, but i admit this was something of an unlikely scenario.
with two tagged zips on the main closure system, it is possible to open the rucksack flat in the back of a team bus, on the floor or on top of the hotel bedspread. a wired frame is visible internally, there to maintain a degree of structural integrity when in use. there's room for a 15" slim laptop such as a macbook air in a pocket lined with removable polystyrene, a feature that ought to keep the macbook from receiving any untoward damage when travelling. an outer pocket on the same side will comfortable swallow copies of mondial, rouleur and wired, offering even more protection for the laptop. at the top is a tricot lined pocked into which it's possible to safely encase a pair of rapha sunglasses. this is cleverly positioned to make access simplicity itself, should the sun suddenly and unexpectedly appear. (not a frequent problem up here, it should be said.)
the opposite side of the fully opened rucksack has a double-sided pocket into which a pair of rapha 'cross shoes or climbers' shoes can be safely carried and kept in place with a poppered strap. i'll admit it was a minor struggle to get the shoes in and out, though there is ample space when you get them there. this panel is accessorised with a large zipped pocket, bordered on one side with two elasticated hoops to hold a mini-pump along with long, thin pockets to hold a few pens or pencils.
you just never know when the need to complete a crossword or sudoku will arise.
the outer side, peppered with hundreds of reflective dots exists as another large, zipped compartment that can be closed when not required, or opened out when there's need of stuffing a jacket inside or perchance a 3kg bag of green city jumbo porridge oats. and just in case you have need of secreting a citylink bus ticket or a few tourist leaflets, there's another zipped compartment built in behind the reflective dots.
consider all the foregoing packed into the rucksack's 35 litres and carried on your back on the way to the office, going on holiday or simply as part of the accoutrements that accompany a grand day out on the bicycle; you're going to want to make sure that lot doesn't slip and slide as you crawl your way up alpe d'huez, the ventoux or bowmore main street. that's all well taken care of by means of an elasticated chest strap and a substantial waist strap both of which conspire to keep the rucksack rock solid on your back, no matter the contortions you may find yourself in during bicycle travel.
for those who feel the need to carry their helmet rather than wear them at times, there are elasticated loops on each side of the back panel through which the helmet straps can be threaded and fastened. affixed thus, a helmet offers no obfuscation of matters taking place behind the cyclist, even when turning round to stare out following drivers. the rapha marqued centre strip has a small section on the lower part to facilitate the fitting of a rear light.
like rapha's backpacks before this new enlarged version, the rucksack straps are well padded and remarkably comfortable, even when the luggage is filled to overflowing. like many a rucksack, even when heavy to carry, the weight seems to evaporate when worn while riding your bicycle. the panel that sits on your back is also padded, but in a manner that allows for decent airflow; there's nothing worse than clambering off the bike, divesting yourself of the luggage and finding that your back is all swot and hetty.
did i ever find that secret panel? ultimately yes, but only after about 45 minutes of searching. it's very cleverly concealed and it's not where i expected it to be. though the waterproof cover encases all but the panel that sits against your back, it should be noted that it is not large enough to fit over a helmet being carried on the outer panel.
am i going to tell you where the secret compartment is situated? of course i'm not; then it wouldn't be a secret.
rapha's rucksack retails at £180 and is available in black only. \ rapha rucksack
friday 14 august 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
today sees the annual islay agricultural show, held on the appropriately named show field at bridgend. since many islay businesses and individuals tend to take this as a holiday, including yours truly, let's suppose that yesterday, in anticipation of painting the garden fence today, i popped out to buildbase near the airport to buy appropriately coloured wood protection. and having done so, let's also hypothesise that i then cycled homeward along the high road, a singletrack road that stretches from port ellen all the way to bridgend.
in this piece of mythology, i am cycling alone, thus any vehicles met along the way, will have only an individual bicyclist to contend with. since courtesy is my superpower at present, when i am aware of any vehicles approaching from behind, rather obviously travelling a tad quicker than i am, i pull into a passing place at the earliest opportunity. for lets face it, i have already chosen my tin of paint, which the proprietor has generously offered to deliver on his way home, so my perambulations are now hardly of an onerous nature.
i can see no particularly good reason for holding up following traffic and thus popping into a passing place to allow overtaking seems like the decent thing to do. though my current, fictional velocipedinal activity is a solo trip, on weekends, i might no longer be brian no-mates and quite likely to have company along the way. conversation is best shared in one of those two-abreast situations that we all know so well, but what should happen when we add a following motor vehicle?
the highway code states that two-abreast cycling is perfectly acceptable where road conditions allow, but that now becomes something of a matter of opinion. allow me to explain: since i and my confidant are travelling along a single-track road, even if one of us sprints to the front thus riding single-file, there is insufficient space in which the vehicle might overtake. therefore, we can safely remain two-abreast until we reach one of the frequent passing places along the way. however, in order that the driver be made aware that we have noticed his/her existence, those of us in the velo club are inclined to resort to single-file.
it is the courteous thing to do.
disappointingly, many a visiting group of cyclists seem bereft of such good manners. i know this because it appears i have become responsible for the behaviour of all visiting cyclists on the island, particularly if they have displayed an indifference to the hapless islay motorist. strangely, i can't find a single indigenous motorist who will accept responsibility for those that cause hassle to the velo club, but i'm sure that's just the order of the universe.
chris boardman's recently released, carlton reid produced short film regarding the amount of space motorists ought to leave between themselves and any cyclist or group thereof is one that ought to be viewed by every motorist in the uk. the fact that it will most likely be watched by cyclists rather than car drivers slightly undermines its efficacy, but that would never be a good reason not to follow this particular train of thought to its logical conclusion. chris boardman, having at one time been britain's great white hope in the field of professional cycling, has become one of the finest spokesmen on cyclist safety it has been our good fortune to behold. but his movie doesn't deal with overtaking on single track roads.
do not misunderstand this as misplaced criticism; there is no real reason as to why singletrack roads ought to have been on the timeline of such a short movie. they hardly constitute the bulk the bulk of roadspace, particularly south of the border. so in the absence of being able to produce a movie of my own, might i just suggest that if you intend to spend even a portion of the remaining holidays cycling in parts of the country where the roads are rather narrow, that you make use of passing places to allow following vehicles to give you the space chris boardman so ably demonstrated we deserve.
vehicles approaching from the opposite direction are a different proposition entirely, for here the slowness of the bicyclist is definitively not an issue. the velo club generally work on the principle that whoever reaches a passing place first gives way to the other. however, on the basis of accumulated observation over many a long year, good luck with getting that to work.
thursday 13 august 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
life as a world tour cycle team, though never less than onerous, is one of guaranteed promise. due to the contractual obligations inherent in the designation, though the riders may not have much advance notice as to which race they might be called on to ride, the eighteen teams that make up cycling's premier league know exactly at which races they are required to park the team bus. though this may prove occasionally vacuous for sponsors whose product does not sell in the country of choice, it does mean that essentially, the same teams are racing each other at the same races throughout the season.
thus, for those who like the kind of statistics rolled out at each year's superbowl, there is some sort of order to the upper echelon of professional cycle racing. a particular team can indeed be named as the best, based on its performance throughout the year. the fact that each of the eighteen has competed at the same events, albeit with a different composition of riders, means that, if you'll excuse the metaphor, there is a semblance of a level playing field.
however, the rung below that of world tour is occupied with a reasonable quantity (and quality) of pro-continental teams, these generally exist on a considerably smaller budget than those at the lofty heights and are rarely guaranteed entry to the world's more desirable events such as the spring classics and the three grand tours.
the numbers game dictates that twenty-two teams of nine riders begin the tour de france; subtract the eighteen mentioned above, and that leaves four spaces open for the hopeful, generally drawn from the ranks of the pro-continentals. one of those hopefuls granted a seat at the top table in the recently completed tour de france, was mtn qhubeka, a team registered in south africa and one whose sponsors are a charity dedicated to supplying bicycles to the disadvantaged in their home country. if ever there was an opportunity to shine for such a recently constituted team, this was surely it?
perhaps more necessary for a fledgling team than for those with a larger sponsorship budget is a chap at the top capable of steering a pro-continental team through the punishments and joys of a three week stage race. mtn qhubeka had one of the best for this year's tour de france. twice british road race champion and former motorola professional, brian smith has never ceased to amaze me with his ability to read a race. ever since those early days at cycling tv and latterly with eurosport, brian's ability to note the various team strategies and translate them into the sort of punditry that enhances rather than obscures has been highly impressive. he is also a man i am happy to consider a good friend.
however, orchestrating a tour de france cycle team takes more than a single player; in fact the management structure of even a pro-continental team bears comparison with the similar examples in industry. with a team manager, directeurs sportifs, soigneurs, mechanics et al, not to mention nine riders, there's a lot of people to keep track of. what was brian's function at this year's tour de france?
"My official role with MTN Qhubeka is that of General Manager. This means making sure all areas of the team are working the way they're supposed to and I'm supporting the other managers in their particular areas. There are also important decisions to be made, ensuring we are all moving forward. However, I have a good team of people at MTN Qhubeka, so that helps.
"My role during the Tour de France was as main Sports Director. Having had meetings with the performance team, it was recommended that my experience was required in this important Tour debut. The daily routine worked something like this:
Before: On arriving at the start of the stage I would host a riders' meeting with the other Sports Directors present. This was mostly a briefing on the stage, weather conditions and roles of each rider during the stage. It was also important to keep everyone motivated over the three weeks of the Tour.
During: I'd inform all the riders of the course and changes in directions, give them info on wind direction and the road layout at key areas of the stage. We had the use of a scouting car ahead of the peloton and a second team car to assist when there was a breakaway. There was also a need to make key tactical decisions with the riders during the stage.
After: I generally finished off by doing my homework on the next day's stage before meeting with the performance team, a debrief of the day, then discuss the next stage. With all this input and information I'd end my day by formulating an exact plan for the following stage.
"I suppose the key element was to make a clear plan and make sure all the riders knew exactly what was expected of them each day."
written down in pixels several weeks after the event, though hardly a restful way to spend a day, brian makes it sound a lot simpler than it probably was. after all, the tour de france is renowned as a particularly fast moving target. but it occurred to me that if mr smith had all the above on his hands each day, what was the guy in the team car doing; the fellow we see on the telly handing out sticky bottles to the riders? in other words, how does brian's job differ from that of the directeur sportif.
"A Sports Director micro manages the staff and riders at a particular event while the General Manager oversees every part of the team. The key areas of a team are Performance, Performance Support, Logistics, Service Course, Finance, PR and Media and Partners. Within those areas I have staff members looking after those particular areas. It's my job to make sure all areas, riders and staff are working efficiently."
as i made mention above, the world tour teams always have the giro d'italia, the tour de france and la vuelta in their sights every year. it is their guaranteed right. however, mtn qhubeka only found out at the tail end of last year that they'd be filling those three weeks in july with several thousand kilometres of pedalling. so while there's probably a cupboard in team sky's death star containing a big book of tour de france instructions, brian smith and the rest of his team quite likely had to start from scratch. what were the plans for those three weeks?
"We set our performance goals back in November last year, namely to win a stage and to wear a competition jersey. We also set goals to raise funds to enable us to donate 5000 bikes to children in Africa by gaining visibility for our charity, Qhubeka. Then we set some individual goals for each rider on the build up to the Tour. The team weren't in every break during the Tour, but they were involved with many of the important ones."
brian and i are both from the same neck of the woods in scotland, a country which features its own national bard in the shape of robert burns. in 1786, burns wrote his poem to a mouse in which there is the celebrated line 'the best laid schemes o' mice an' men, gang aft agley.' translated into english, this means that plans don't always work out the way they were intended to. therefore, though mtn had targeted one of the principal jerseys on offer, was it still something of a surprise that daniel (teklehaimanot) captured the polka dot jersey in the first week?
"Not really, as it was planned. Saying that, it wasn't easy. He was the main man for the breakaway that day and his job was to win all three GPMs. It sounds easy when you say it, but he rode with confidence and commitment before delivering the result we'd asked of him that day."
the crowining glory for any team in the tour de france, other than wearing yellow in paris, is at very least, a stage win. it's something that the world tour teams challenge for almost on a daily basis; for the wild-card entries it's often a prize that dangles tantalisingly just out of reach. however, on stage fourteen, britain's steve cummings outwitted and outpaced a couple of french riders to nab mtn qhubeka's first tour stage win in their first tour. brian's twitter feed (@brismithy) placed the credit for the win squarely on cummings' shoulders. he claimed that it had nothing to do with any advice he may have imparted, stating that cummings was "a man on a mission". was this indicative of the level of individual freedom the riders were allowed, or was it more due to clever teamwork earlier in the stage?
"Steve was our chosen man that day. He was looked after by Eddie Boassen Hagen to help him get in the day's break, though it took a while for the break to establish itself. You can give advice to the riders and ask them to do things, but you can't ride the bike for them.
"Once the break was established, I was happy with the composition. The group was big enough for Steve to duck and dive and with only one rider from MTN, the pressure to ride wasn't on our team as others had several riders in the break. We sent the second team car forward to the break away with clear instructions to give Steve the information he required.
"With the quality of the breakaway, I initially thought Steve needed to look for an opportunity before the final climb. But on seeing the way FDJ were riding, I decided he needed to be patient, saving all his energy for the final climb as the rider with the most power remaining was going to win. Steve is an experienced pro and doesn't need too much encouragement; only the key information delivered at the right time. If you push a rider in the wrong manner, it can have a detrimental effect on their performance. The key element to this particular success was that Steve believed in the team and himself that day. It was a dream come true for both!"
with the possible exception of tommy voeckler's europcar team, tour de france wild-cards have a distinct tendency to be one-off opportunities. and considering the often substantial difference between those at the very top and even those only a few degrees lower in the pecking order, it's a big ask to gain anything from the tour apart from a few collective hours of tv exposure. that's the main reason why you'll usually find at least one wild-card team in each day's doomed breakaway. but the ability to impress is not only centred around tv exposure and keeping the sponsor happy; justifying selection has to be uppermost, perhaps enough to warrant the same opportunity in next year's tour de france. does brian figure that this year's performance will place mtn qhubeka in a good position for a 2016 invite?
"You would think so, but we won't take this year for granted. We also have a mutual partner with Dimension Data (responsible for some of the on-screen telemetry during this year's tour). We will continue to race the same way we've always done and hope to merit a place in next year's Tour. Everyone on the team loves to race. The ethos of the team will continue in this way."
as one who is apparently completely missing the competitive gene, i've never actually won anything that offered an opportunity or need to celebrate. but several days in the king of the mountains jersey and a stage victory is definitely something worth celebrating. how did the team do so when they reached paris?
"After the stage we had a BBQ at the team bus with family, friends and partners. Then we went straight to the Elysées Lounge where we had a party planned for 200 guests. I had my own family there so I left earlier to get them to bed. I'm getting a little old now to be partying hard." (no, he's not kidding).
though it's something of a self-fulfilling prophecy, the tour de france has become the biggest cycle race in the world mostly because it has become the biggest cycle race in the world. a bit like the kardashians being famous for being famous. however, there are eleven other months of the year during which plenty of other important and famous races take place. and mtn qhubeka will be showing off their black and white striped jerseys at more than just one or two. what are the plans for the remainder of the 2015 season?
"Our next main goal is La Vuelta. Like the Tour de France we have set a goal of a stage win. We'd also like to look at the Tour of Britain and we have some individual riders looking at the World Championships."
it has to be admitted that for all the spurious comparisons with league football, there is one fundamental difference. just because a team does exceptionally well in the pro-continental ranks doesn't automatically promote them to world tour status. there aren't a couple of world tour teams relegated to pro-continental level, while the latter move up. world tour licences have to be available and applied for, while acceptance depends a great deal on financial status. in other words: sponsorship. does brian have any notion to take mtn qhubeka up to world tour status in the foreseeable future?
"Our target for World Tour is 2017, but if the right partner comes on board for next year then we could step up a year earlier. However, the World Tour has its own demands, so we'll need to evaluate our overall budget before looking at the step upward. But we are moving in the right direction..."
very many thanks to brian smith for his extensive assistance with this feature. i'd also like to send best wishes to matt brammeier of mtn qhubeka who is recovering from extensive injuries sustained in a crash with a service vehicle in the tour of utah.
all photographs are copyright 2015 gruber images.
wednesday 12 august 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
a few weeks ago, i received a phone call at 7:30pm on a sunday evening, enquiring as to whether i was the local bike shop. at one time this might have been closer to the truth than is currently the case, but less than eager to enter into a theoretical discussion related to the economies of scale prevalent in the hebrides, i simply answered in the affirmative. i would hope that you have taken note of the time at which i received this call, for were i truly a proper bike shop, i very much doubt i'd have been answering the telephone at that hour on a sunday evening.
however, iniquities aside, i enquired as to the purpose of the gent's phone call. it transpires that while travelling for a holiday on islay, one of his mountain bikes had suffered a puncture. (i subsequently discovered that the bike in question had reached these shores atop his car, so quite how the puncture was acquired remains something of a mystery.) assuming that he needed a new inner-tube, i asked what size he required, given that mountain bikes seem blessed with quite a variety these days.
"oh, i have a spare tube", he replied "but i'm not very mechanically competent, and i was wondering if you might spare some time to fit the new inner-tube?" islanders have a well-deserved reputation for helpful friendliness, so in normal circumstances, i would have been happy to offer a five minute spree of tube replacement, but i replied that at 7:30pm on a sunday eve, there wasn't much i could do for him. however, on discovering that his holiday accommodation was across the road from the office, i suggested that if he experienced any difficulties, he was more than welcome to call in the morning.
that call never came. his two mountain bikes corralled on a roofrack, sat in main street all week. none of us ever saw them with their rubber on the ground and i never looked closely enough to check if one tyre was still flat.
i realise that a situation such as the above is hardly unknown, even this far west, but it seems a rather poor show nowadays for a grown man to admit that his mechanical ability failed to stretch as far as either repairing a puncture or replacing a punctured tube. while i was still at school, my parents made sure that any punctures my raleigh shopper suffered were repaired by yours truly. at that point i had scarcely entered my teens. in fact, as i recall, all of my school chums were similarly well-versed in the art of oiling chains and fixing punctures without adult assistance.
have we really regressed to the point where adult owners of reasonably serious and outwardly expensive mountain bikes would be left helplessly floundering in the middle of nowhere if they rode over terrain less than kind to their racing ralphs? surely inner-tube replacement ought to be categorised as mtb 101? at the very least, someone needs to point out to such simpletons, that phoning a bike shop at 7:30pm on a sunday eve is most definitely not part of velocipedinal etiquette.
it is nice to note, however, that on a related matter, during the recent 24 hour tube strike in london, the occasionally maligned evans cycles, home to chris hoy bikes, was offering to repair punctures free of charge to cycle commuters during the period of the strike. in a statement cunningly free of commercial blatancy, evans' director of business services and ride to work, mark brown said,
"We at Evans Cycles strongly believe that cycling is the best means of commuting to work full stop. Not only is it cheaper and greener than driving or taking public transport, but it keeps you fit and healthy. Most importantly though, it's enjoyable. During the week of the strike we will be running a number of initiatives in our London stores to help people navigate the city during what will be a chaotic time. However, we hope that others will discover our passion and enjoy the benefits of cycling to work on a more regular basis."
i need surely not have to point out that islay has neither an underground railway system, nor an evans superstore. and that probably calls the relevance of this article into serious question.
tuesday 11 august 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................