"having avoided the sunday ride, i went out with racing ralph this morning."..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
as i have frequently mentioned, along with very many others, i throughly enjoy watching cycle racing. i cannot deny that i have more affection for the one-day classics than for the three week grand tours, but i've found that if i simply consider each stage as a sunnier one-day classic, then i can probably get through all three weeks without so much as a grumpy expression. what i don't particularly enjoy is the seemingly ever-increasing punditry that now accompanies each major race.
it used to be bad enough when the television coverage was preceded by at least one or two talking heads on a studio couch providing us with their expert countenance on the velocipedinal matters that were soon to follow. but now that social media has entered the fray, my timeline is often filled with tweets offering 'ten riders to watch', a stage by stage preview of the entire race, or even an interview with a rider who wasn't selected to ride for his team.
i don't doubt that those self-styled experts are exactly what they say they are. i know for a fact that i am no expert, so it wouldn't take much to have greater knowledge than yours truly. but simply on the basis that they have yet to watch the racing that i am about to, there's really no way that anyone can know how things might pan out. you may recall the tour de france of 2011 in which it was expected that prince bradley would demolish the opposition and follow his fourth place of 2010 by standing atop the podium. unfortunately he crashed and broke his collarbone.
i bet no-one saw that coming.
yet there still remains consternation in official circles that those of us metaphorically standing by the roadside are not being suitably served by the mundane standard of entertainment depicted on our television screens or internet feeds. in comparison with america's superbowl, they may have a point, but having attempted on several occasions to stay awake past the half-time show, the on-screen statistics more often than not have a tendency to obscure the football allegedly taking place. having said that, i am quite impressed with how they manage to place wording 'neath the players in real-time.
the riders' association, hereinafter referred to as velon have taken steps to alleviate this apparent mediocrity by attaching tiny cameras to one or two racing bicycles. disappointingly, these seem currently incapable of broadcasting the obscure viewpoints they might display; how much more exciting liege-bastogne-liege would be when seen from between a pair of frantically moving shaved legs. having watched one or two examples of such footage, suddenly i find myself missing the very punditry that was the subject of my ire only one or two paragraphs earlier.
but such live telemetry it transpires is not only that which deserves to be broadcast to a tv audience of millions. a bit like the faux celebrity achieved by having your very own facebook page, it is now possible to purchase and attach a quarq wireless unit to the rear of your seatpost, ready to broadcast your feeble efforts to an audience of unknown constitution. quarq race intelligence consists of a ruggedized (?), waterproof, polycarbonate case containing gps, ant+ and a modem that utilises the mobile phone network to transmit every last digital slice to the great unwashed.
not unnaturally, there is software required to gather all the aforesaid digits and compile them into an industry standard format. aside from what i consider an oddity that such technology is being trumpeted as commercially available to all and sundry, i confess to being a tad surprised that there is such a thing as an industry standard for the dissemination of such less than startling information.
however, all this has not been foisted upon an unsuspecting public without first having made sure all works as described in the instruction manual. for at least the past season, quarq racing intelligence has been tested with both the drapac and axeon cycling teams, the latter participating in usa regional mountain bike races.
i would dearly love to tell you how much such a device will cost you, should you deem it necessary to broadcast to youtube, facebook or twitter (always assuming, of course, that can be done in the first place). but a bit like trying to learn the price of a commercial offset printer, that's something that quarq seem to be keeping to themselves for the time being.
saturday 29 august 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
for those of you who could care less, the cycling world is currently under attack from tweets and features emanating from about fourteen or more substantially sized halls in freidrichshafen, germany, where most of the world's major and minor cycle paraphernalia producers have laid out their stalls. in the trade, we call it eurobike. one of these years, i may actually travel across and visit, but for the meantime it would seem that so many members of the cycling media are already there, i can't for the life of me see what i would bring to the party.
apart from maybe a bottle of san pellegrino.
though as a famous cycling journalist i probably ought to know, i find myself sadly lacking when it comes being aware of the precise points at which the cycle trade aim their annual workflow. does everything really take a year, from the moment one eurobike ends until the next year's begins? or is it more a case of finishing at least one desirable item in late may, but keeping it in a darkened and padlocked cupboard until the end of august? as i said, i have no cognisant information as to which of the above options match the truth, but either way, it seems everybody launches everything at eurobike.
sram have already, on the very first day, unveiled their own version of electronic gear shifting in the form of sram red e-tap, perhaps unfortunately named (or maybe deliberately), because it sounds like the french for stage. maybe it's simply a happy coincidence. one more electronic groupset arriving a few years after shimano and campagnolo have already claimed their own space in this digital firmament may not, on its own, seem worthy of a flurry of adulation. however, sram have stepped one pace further than either of the other two by making their's wireless.
it is the sort of development that i thought either campag or shimano would have revealed first, and i've little doubt that both are feverishly working on wireless versions of their own respective electronic shifting systems. but when that inevitably happens, will it spell the end of versatility for the hapless carbon bicycle frame?
i already have at the front of thewashingmachinepost bikeshed, a current review model that routes every cable internally even though its shifting system is entirely mechanical. this method of concealing cables, while offering an admittedly tidy look, was more or less created by the need to keep thin and fragile electrical wires out of harm's way. it is a far better look than the first dura-ace di2 bicycle i reviewed which had the cables routed externally and held in place with zip ties. but will those new gateways to a monocoque's inner sanctum soon be deemed surplus to requirements if there are soon no more wires to conceal?
yet not every modern technological advancement necessarily brings a flood of tears. during the eneco tour, one or two of the professional teams were seen to be trialling uci sanctioned disc brakes on their carbon fibre as a means of easing the technology into the formula one peloton by 2017. a similar dispensation has apparently been instigated by the lads at aigle for several races in the 2016 season. while the governing body perhaps wishes to lose the image as technological detractors, rather than simply emulate the man from delmonte and say yes, they seem simply to be making sure of the pragmatism of their likely decision at the end of 2016 by giving the teams time to iron out the inevitable gremlins and prejudices before the brown stuff hits the rotating blades.
the advantages of disc brakes for carbon rims have been frequently mentioned prior to now. due to carbon's lack of heat conductivity, there has been necessary use of special brake shoe compounds in order to stop the bikes with amenable alacrity, but not always with suitable success in wet weather. moving the braking to a spinning rotor attached to the hub not only alleviates that problem, but negates a structural problem that reared its head when designing and manufacturing carbon clinchers. the announcement, therefore, by american wheel manufacturer zipp earlier this week that they were bringing to market both 28mm and 30mm tubulars and clinchers would surely have been a head-scratcher had they not pointed out that the clearances necessary to fit tyres of those widths were suddenly revealed by the disappearance of the ubiquitous dual-pivot caliper.
that said, looking ever more closely at the three colnagos sitting in the bike shed, i'm still not sure that tyres of those sizes would make it past the frame clearances. however, the theory remains cogent.
as the zipp press release states 'Research has shown that a larger tire has the ability to cut rolling resistance, making you faster than you would be with a traditional 23mm-wide racing tire. And of course, a larger tire offers improved grip in dry and wet conditions.' in the light of this contention, the veracity of which i have no reason to doubt, perhaps the incessant rumbling of approaching disc brakes has managed to confer some sort of advantage upon not only the professional, but the humble and far slower ordinary man in the saddle.
if only they weren't disc brakes.
friday 28 august 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
"you can't buy happiness, but you can buy a bicycle and that's pretty close."
in the mid to late nineties, our local newspaper purchased its first digital camera made by kodak. because there is no specific need for digital cameras to emulate the shape of the analogue versions we all know and love, kodak's tentative steps into the world of low resolution digital imaging resembled nothing more or less than a very big lozenge. as can perhaps be easily imagined, this made the camera slightly unwieldy to handle and led to more than just a few blurred images.
the only saving grace was that the number of pixels available was so low, that often the quality wasn't high enough to see the blur in the first place.
since those days, digital cameras have reverted to the shape and form factor that we have mostly become used to, easing the grasp for the inept and retaining the familarity experienced by the professional. they have also become completely ubiquitous, not only in the realm of what we might reasonably term photography, but as advertised on tv as being inside every smartphone on the market. the notion of there being almost 100 times the number of pixels inside a modern-day phone than in that first kodak digital camera is not lost on me.
the upshot of all this pixelated imagery is that even those of us working in the realm of image-making tend to assume that every photograph seen in any situation will have been taken with a digital camera. i mean, who on earth would subject themselves to the faff and iniquities of analogue photography with its concomitant spool changing, developing, printing etc., etc. but every now and again, i come across a collection of images that have been snapped on film, yet my assumptions are still entrenched in the world of pixels.
the race photos of philipp hympendahl are perhaps the perfect example, resulting in something of a faux pas on my contacting philipp for some more details about the imagery in 'beyond the finish line'. a goodly number of those populating the opening pages exhibit substantial, yet specific desaturation in certain colours. i not unnaturally asked philipp if this was achieved in post production and why?
"I photograph on a old 6x17cm film camera, which is really difficult when photographing cycling. I have to manually focus and I can take only one photo before I have to manually wind on. With this technique you have to think in advance and be well prepared, but then you have a chance to produce something different than the norm.
"I wanted to present a very personal view of cycling along with the chance to print the pictures realy large afterwords. I had this old camera, so I gave it a go.
"The project nearly came to a early end after my photolab destroyed a long weekend's work at the Tour de France three years ago. But then I got in touch with the guy who takes care of my post production. He scans the films creating the end look as presented in my book. This process takes time and costs money.
the imagery runs the full gamut of cycling photography, from dynamic race footage to a wide panorama shot of a gaggle of hympendahl's peers all but concealed amidst a forest of enormous lenses. we're all likely well-used to the sort of reportage photography that appears in the monthlies, but nowadays we all want more; all the paraphernalia that surrounds the act of racing itself. what inspires philipp to focus his photography on cycle sport?
"I've been working for German cycling magazine TOUR for a long time and always loved to work on personal projects besides the business work. So I started to play around with my old camera, far away from thinking this could work. The first photo that made me understand that in fact this project could work, was the Tom Boonen photo of Paris Roubaix." (pages 38-39)
aside from having an impressive eye for a photo, hympendahl has a penchant for riding his bicycle a tad further than most of us might consider. he has featured on the post most recently in connection with dromarti leather shoes by whom he was sponsored in the recent paris-brest-paris. i can think of several cycle photographers who enjoy being in the saddle almost as much as behind the lens (scott mitchell springs most recently to mind), but none that i can think of would undertake the 1200 kilometres required of paris-brest-paris. other than exhausting, how was it?
"As a cyclist I started to become more interested in a mixture of adventure and sport; that's why I decided this season to try long distance cycling. PBP was such a great journey with very nice, interesting and crazy people. You have such a great distance to cycle, that the riders stick together more than normally. There were long hours of darkness and tiredness, plus I had a lot of pain. Your inner voices tell you to stop, but something makes you carry on and on."
"In Brest i wanted to give up, because I figured I'd suffered enough. But relief of simply channging my clothes off gave me the impetus to carry on. And once you change direction towards Paris that's a big help.
"The last third of the race I cycled with an English guy and later with a whole English group. One guy, even older than I am, was on a single speed; great. I decided then that it wasn't a race any more, because the group was so great we just stuck together to the finish.
attacking a lengthy ride such as pbp is one thing; simply to finish the event really has to be considered amongst one of the biggest challenges in modern cycling. but it's highly unlikely that those who enter are only there to make up the numbers. there are specific goals to be achieved, possibly collateral from a focused training programme, but perhaps as a result of a personal challenge. after all there are specific qualifying races that have need of completion prior to setting off from paris. had philipp achieved his own goals for the event?
"I am very happy with the way it went. My time was still pretty good concerning all that happened en-route. I lost my way once and did missed the direction signs at one point, riding some extra miles in the fog of an early morning. That cost me about half an hour."
aside, however, from a career of image-making and this seemingly insatiable desire to ride a year's distance in a matter of days, philipp has a third string to his bow: that of research and development practitioner. you may recall from my previous feature on the man that dromarti proprietor, martin scofield has sponsored hympendahl to attempt riding his shoes to destruction. the sponsorship arrangement involves a practical means of gathering information that will subsequently improve the end product. how did the shoes fare over those 1200 kilometres?
"The shoes were really good and my feet were more or less one of the few pain-free areas. But my backside is still not ok and there are parts of my hands where I still have no feeling."
though i've never even come close to riding such a distance at one sitting, there have been one or two occasions when i've suffered numbness in places where i'd have preferred not to. on none of those occasions have i ever thought, 'i don't think i'll do that again.' however, my recall features only a couple of hundred kilometres, nothing like the 1200 that gave philipp a pain in the backside. after pbp, does hympendahl have any future plans for any more lengthy bike rides?
"I've not made up my mind, but the fact is that I cannot go much further than I did. Due to an accident when I was younger, I have problems with my right knee and my left ankle, both of which were swollen really badly. My mind could cope with a RAAM, but my body would not."
it is often said that a picture is worth a thousand words, thus impeccable imagery such as included in beyond the finish line therefore surely must benefit from being accompanied by the words of tim farin. the introduction, however, makes it quite plain that farin's words are not intended to be a commentary on or description of hympendahl's photography.
"Neither the pictures nor the text are designed to answer specific questions or fit a set pattern of storytelling."
farin's essays are, if anything, atmospheric. inflections garnered from the arena of professional cycling that assist hympendahl's own photographic storytelling. combined over the book's 127 pages, the end result is quite superb.
thursday 27 august 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
there have been discussions recently both verbally and in print on the island, perhaps originally curated by yours truly, about both the numbers and size of recreational vehicles or mobile homes that have made their way to islay over this past summer (a word used strictly in the conventional sense and bearing no resemblance to the usually associated weather).
islay has a finite amount of accommodation available, something that previously maintained a respectable number of visitors each season. and at the risk of being somewhat elitist, also the social strata from which those visitors were drawn, due to the expense of travelling to the isle before considering the cost of a week's self-catering or guest house accommodation. the recent instigation of ret (road equivalent tariff) has reduced the cost of bringing a non-commercial vehicle to many of scotland's western isles, including the now much-maligned motor homes, so their number has increased substantially in the last couple of years.
the downside to this state of affairs is two-fold. firstly, most of those visiting in this peripatetic manner tend to rely on self-sufficiency. in other words, they bring pretty much everything with them, contributing little or nothing to the local economy. secondly, and more pertinent to those of us who cycle hither and thither across the island's network of single-track roads, many of them demonstrate a distinct inability to drive these behemoths with anything approaching consummate skill. that most of them are hired only adds to this iniquity.
thus, if i have need of explaining myself in more graphic terms, meet one of these overly wide vehicles on the road to kilchoman distillery and there's very little chance that they will a) remain totally oblivious to anything resembling a passing place. b) be incapable of driving the vehicle into said passing place, and/or c) not be able to reverse at any point of the proceedings.
whether something is done to restrict the numbers arriving on the daily calmac ferries, as is done in colonsay and tiree is something i believe is about to be under consideration, but meantime, there are young (and old) cyclists to consider. for not only are the roads becoming choked with gargantua, they are becoming increasingly occupied with more motor cars than we're all used to over here.
i realise that the latter problem is one that affects pretty much every part of every industrialised country in the western world, but on this rock in the atlantic, it may be happening more subtly than is good for velocipedinal matters. for those who do currently hold a driver's licence and make use of it on a daily basis, possession of this illustrated piece of card depends on successfully undertaking an indeterminate number of lessons before passing a driving test. until the latter is completed, it is illegal to drive any car without a licence holder in the passenger seat.
cycling, however, is inordinately free from any such restrictions. for many, this is the very ticket to freedom; nip to the local bike shop, purchase something suitable and the world, apparently, is your oyster. there is no need to purchase insurance and no need to pass any sort of test. simply clamber aboard and head, prepared or otherwise, into the melée. personally, i think there is something fundamentally wrong with that. currently, whatever passes for the cycling proficency test has no teeth; even if you fail to pass, nobody has the right to stop you riding your bicycle anywhere you darned well like.
whatever happens to the increased influx of motor homes onto the southern hebrides is really neither here nor there. i think it may be time to seriously consider some form of compulsory national cycle training, not because motorists have to submit to the time and expense of so doing, but because if we want cycling to become an inherent piece of modern society, it might be prudent to make sure potential participants can survive long enough to enjoy it.
wednesday 26 august 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
like most of you, i'd describe myself as a bike rider or a cyclist. that seems a basically descriptive admission that offers nothing in the way of pretension but more or less everything by way of information. granted, it gives not a clue as to how good or bad a cyclist i am, but i prefer to think that is something for others to judge. after all one's ability on the bicycle is surely a subjective matter. overstatement at this point would surely smack of egotism?
however, i do allow myself a wry smile when a directeur sportif alludes to the athletes under his direction. it's not that i don't agree with the description, but my sheltered upbringing had me regard only those who ran 100 metres in mere seconds as athletes, or the chaps with the javelins, shot putt or even the long jump. because they participate in what the tv refers to as athletics. cyclists ride cycle races, or at least some of them do, though i don't include myself in this particular subset of the venn diagram.
however, the epithets athlete or athletic have positive connotations associated with them. if i were to walk into debbie's on a saturday lunchtime and folks murmured such words under their breath, i would feel a comforting need to smile silently to myself. therefore, when several rather attractively designed pairs of socks accompany a castelli custom cubiste cycle jersey and matching casquette all the way from portland oregon, obliquely emblazoned with the athletic logo, the subsequent wearing has already acquired a positive ethic before the outcome is decided.
(incidentally, uk castelli distributors, saddleback are now able to accept custom orders for castelli servizio course kit, about which more soon.)
the iconically named the athletic, whose encouraging motto is 'can't stop, won't stop.', consists of renowned french cyclocross rider, julie krasniak, husband jeremy dunn (who you may recall from the rapha continental), zach rotstein and alexis ho. a fine balance between male and female influence on the product line. on the basis of my received selection of socks, this may well be their secret weapon.
i confess that up until a deftly positioned question to one of jeremy dunn's former work colleagues provided appropriate enlightenment, i had thought the athletic to be solely the blog of mr dunn. i had no idea there was commercial enterprise attached. and while we're discussing said blog (which lives under the journal heading on the athletic website), i read that dan chabanov, rider with the richard sachs cyclocross team, will provide a weekly does of eastern usa cyclocross action. if ever you needed an excuse...
the retail section of the athletic emporium initially consisted predominantly of socks, with the occasional t-shirt included for good measure. however, more recently these have been augmented with the aforementioned castelli produced, athletic decorated cycle jerseys, available in hot pink (as reviewed) or blue. the former consists of a collection; jersey, casquette and matching socks. castelli's reputation for cycle garb of any hue or description is well nigh impeccable, and the la cubiste jersey does nothing but reinforce this apprehension. featuring a full-length zip, three capacious rear pockets and a beautifully idiosyncratic graphic, after the first wearing, i hand-washed it that selfsame evening and hung it out to dry in order that i might wear it once more the following morning.
generally speaking, socks are socks. they do what they do, and the majority do so to the best of their ability. at the risk of coming across as just a tad pretentious, the athletic's socks are quite different, and not only because the majority are not a perfect match. in this i do not mean the sizes are different, but that the patterns are complementary. thus, if i may take the la cubiste pair as my example, the bits on one that are pink, on the other are beige. and vice versa. and they look very much the better for it.
as if that were insufficient to welcome them to your credit card, one pair i received bore embroidered eccentrically conceived slogans that ought to provide suitable motivation for the impending ride. congratulatory phrases such as smooth move and get juiced appear on the cuppow oh wow socks, built in conjunction with cuppow, an american company who provide 'everyday products that help us live low-impact lives.'
having counted over forty different pairs of socks on the athletic website it seems that not only can they not stop, won't stop, they've covered pretty much every foot-based base. where else in this velocipedinal world is it possible to buy a set of three socks? everything, including the cotton casquette are of impeccable quality, adding more than just a subtle frisson to the sunday ride.
or any other day of the week, for that matter. pdx might still be very much where it's at.
tuesday 25 august 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
in 1992, the manager of the local swimming pool and myself invented the islay tryathlon. the latter word was spelt in that manner becasue we rather hoped those not in the habit of preceding a bike ride with a swim and following with a run would find it in themselves to participate. though it was perfectly possible for individuals to undertake all three events, the basic premise of the islay tryathlon was that teams of three would compete against each other. and to prevent all the good guys getting together and leaving all others trailing in their wake, when the swimmer emerged from the pool, the idea was that they'd select a numbered ping-pong ball. that would equate to a similarly numbered ball held by a cyclist. the same would then happen when the cyclist returned from his/her travails.
unfortunately, that system lasted for only the first year; in year two, the good guys all got together and formed teams that did indeed leave all others trailing in their collective wake.
having participated as part of a random team in that first year (and inadvertantly winning), i thought perhaps i might demonstrate my total athletic prowess and attempt all three disciplines. my swimming bears all the marks of a mobile jacuzzi (lots of splashing but not much forward movement), the cycling was easily my best business card and i thought i could probably have a go at running.
but for those of us who have little or no experience at the running game, the possibility of hurting myself seemed at least of mild concern, so i purchased a quality pair of reebok trainers with impressively cushioned soles. heading out for a first run in my new shiny footwear along part of the intended tryathlon route, i managed a mere five or six hundred metres before experiencing an ever-increasing pain down my right shin.
convinced that this was as a result of not stretching properly prior to exertion, i hobbled home, spent half an hour performing leg stretches and headed out once more. i'm sure you can guess precisely what happened next? exactly: same distance, same pain.
since i can cycle all day with no apparent aches and pains that would put paid to endless pedalling, it seemed a prudent decision to excuse myself from any form of running for evermore and just stick to cycling. however, even with regard to the cycling milieu, it is every bit as important for cyclists to choose the correct footwear as it is for potential usain bolts and marathon runners. road cycling places demands on the prennially mentioned stiffness, hence the predilection for carbon soles. but implement a similar sole policy for offroad shoes and we might all find running up hills a tad less simple than it appears on paper.
giro have already given us lace-up empire shoes for the road, as recently reviewed in these very pixels. but since many of us maintain the same joyous affectation for cyclocross as we do for road-riding, wouldn't it just make perfect sense for giro to offer a similar style? which, of course, they have.
taking the shape of the empire vr90, these provide a full carbon sole but with a vibram moulded rubber tread to alleviate untoward vibration and help aging cyclists such as myself up impossibly steep tracks hidden by undergrowth. as with many an offroad shoe, there are two inserts just behind the toe to allow the insertion of a couple of spikes offering more purchase on rocky ground. much as i would love to regale you with tales of my gargantuan efforts in the offroad genre, in point of fact, i've never quite found the need for those spikes. maybe i'd be a lot better off if i did.
however, if you've cast even a cursory glance at the photos accompanying this review, you will note that it is not only possible to enjoy unfettered offroad joy on (in this case) a cyclocross bicycle, but to carry off a passing impersonation of buzz lightyear into the bargain. though a pair of empire v90 shoes can be had in a more sombre black with orange laces and logos, the alternative is silver uppers with lime green laces and logos. since my ibis hakkalugi is also a (slightly different) shade of lime green, what better way to disguise my 'cross ineptitude than to wear a distracting pair of shiny shoes?
such silver synthetic uppers offer the added benefit of sloughing off any mud and leaves that may have temporarily hidden their reflective glory.
of course, the outer shininess hides the fervently restless technology underneath, not least of which is an inner sole with a variable instep to suit all sorts of different feet. this particular pair of silver and lime green-ness were matched to a pair of crank brothers eggbeaters, the cleats for which are easily accommodated. it could conceivably be my astute practising in the undergrowth, but i'd offer that i found disconnecting from the left pedal when dismounting far more effective than is usually the case. i can but put that down to the efficacy of the shoes which, incidentally, bear all the hallmarks of your favourite pair of slippers.
leaping aboard is still tediously amateurish, but at least i no longer fall flat on my face near the woollen mill car park while pretending to be jeremy powers.
in case you ride a road bicycle fitted with spd or crank brothers pedals, these are every bit as effective on-road as they are off. that way you don't embarrassingly skite across the supermarket floor in cleated race shoes while trying to purchase your team sky protein shakes. and now you'll look even less of a prat when standing in the office elevator on the way to your desk (silver shininess notwithstanding).
just remember that when someone presses the button for the top floor, to put your right arm in the upright position and exclaim 'to infinity and beyond'
giro's empire vr90 offroad shoes are distributed in the uk by zyro and available in sizes from eu 40 to eu 48, many in half sizes. each pair comes in its own zippered carry-case. colours are either black/orange or silver/lime. retail price is £219.99
monday 24 august 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i'm not the first and i'll definitely not be the last to make comparison between an over-riding enthusiasm for cycling and that of religion. it is surely no coincidence that many a cycle club holds a sunday morning bike ride; while others find themselves squirming on uncomfortable pews, we're all out on arguably even less comfortable seating, demonstrating our own religious fervour. of course, such obsession is hardly confined to matters velocipedinal. those partaking of alternative forms of physical activity display every bit as much enthusiasm for their own particular poison.
however, we at least have our own commandments as proscribed by the fine fellows at velominati, despite there being considerably more than ten, more than just a few of which must be adhered to with tongues firmly planted in sunday morning cheeks. just what constitutes the bible is a subject open to much discussion, at least as far as road cycling is concerned. when it comes to cyclocross, however, there really is only one candidate, that of photographer balint hamvas' annual pictorial dissemination of the previous season's european racing.
though hamvas' website declares the book began shipping to prospective customers at the end of june, it's arrival at the washingmachinepost croft in the past week was particularly apposite. this is entirely because, as september creeps onto the horizon of august, to quote the inimitable richard sachs: 'cross fugkinc rules'. and who can argue with that?
i have some sympathy with those (mostly mrs washingmachinepost) who contend that one race looks very much like another, and one cyclocross bike looks remarkably similar to those travelling in its wake. those of us who like to think of ourselves as amongst the cognoscenti when it comes to such matters, know different, a knowledge that mr hamvas caters to with remarkable perspicacity. apple computer have often been identified as a company with a knack of providing us with items that we scarcely knew we wanted or needed.
this year's cyclocross annual does precisely the same for cross addicts. witness balint's visit to the home of dugast tyres; enough to make your kneecaps crinkle (in a good way). the very fact that i pored over pictures of tread patterns for far longer than is seemly in polite company no doubt says just as much about me as it does about hamvas. and it's not just the stars and watercarriers who gain their fifteen minutes of fame. balint has paid tribute to the volunteers who allow us to indulge our religion whether that involves racing or scoffing frites and mayo from the safer side of the barriers.
in a break from tradition, the cyclocross annual includes all the relevant results from the races depicted. in balint's own words "Now there is no need to visit the UCI website if you want to know who won the second round of the World Cup." and additionally the book has been separated into three big sections, one for each main series. happily, milton keynes features both pictorially and textually.
it would be remiss of me to contend that the annual is entirely the work of hamvas; a solo album if you will. though the imagery is indeed from his lens, many of the articles emanate from the word processors of esteemed others: paul maunder, caroline cardinaels, mark legg-compton, nicholas lemke and more all contribute to the beautifully illustrated epistles.
i can't underline just how essential this annual is to even an enthusiast-from-afar such as myself, and i think it worth my pointing out that last year's edition is still sat prominently amongst my current reading material, though it will slowly be replaced by the latest edition.
a bible, of course, has need of being at least a tad contentious, if only to point out the iniquities prevalent in the society we currently take for granted. thus the disparity in financial earnings between the male and female competitors is examined in depth, perhaps with the approval of the riders, but doubtless to the consternation of sponsors and race organisers. that being the case, however, it is a factor of modern day cyclocross that has need of being addressed and it is of great credit to balint that he had the considerable temerity to allow dan seaton to approach the subject so forcefully. scandalous would be a good description.
though it would be nice to think that the sport of cyclocross is considerably bigger than any one individual, there's an entire chapter given over to examining quite how spectator numbers might fare after february 2016 at which point sven nys will retire from active duty. ever since i've been following cyclocross, nys has been involved, and though his disappearance won't prevent me from continuing to watch on sporza, even though he no longer rides a colnago, he'll be sorely missed.
though balint's photography is quite glorious, it is remarkably magnanimous of the chap to hand over one of the opening pages to illustrator henry mccausland. when your copy arrives you will understand why. i'd be the first to admit that i have a particular liking for illustration, one that easily equals my enjoyment of other folks' photography, but such is the graphic skill of mr maccausland, that i rather hope balint asks him back more than once for next year's edition.
the cyclocross annual 2014/2015 can be ordered directly from the link below at a cost of £29.99, plus postage and packing. i mention this because not ordering a copy really isn't an option, especially if you wish to keep the faith.
sunday 23 august 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
islay is the most southerly of the inner hebrides, a group of islands that includes jura, colonsay, tiree and a few others that keep scotland's west coast warm and cosy in the winter. the northerly bit has the outer hebrides to perform a similar function, only slightly further out in the atlantic.
the next big island north of here is mull, but unlike islay it can be reached via three, non-interchangeable ferries. by that i mean each route has its own dedicated ferry and never the trio shall meet. (islay's ferries travel to both ports.) the big ferry leaves from oban and travels to craignure on mull's east coast. the smaller ferries ply the middle route from lochaline on the morvern peninsula and that between kilchoan and tobermory. davie graham works on the latter.
i confess that the notion of working such a ferry route strikes me as verging on the idyllic, a concept that is probably very far from the truth. however, from casual observation, it seems a long way from the frantic activity involved in thundering round a cyclocross course, through mud and undergrowth, punctuated by one or two steps and maybe the occasional hurdle. davie is the secretary of the scottish cyclocross association...
"I try and collate the series so that the Championship moves round the country, the races aren't bunched together geographically, they meet the same criteria and are sustainable."
i know what a juggling act it can be to hold down a full-time job, and still accomplish everything that allows me to scribble thewashingmachinepost on a daily basis. quite how davie manages to go sailing each day, organise the scottish cx championship events and still pin a number on his back and go race is quite impressive. because the latter is bound to involve at least one or two bouts of serious training every now and again.
the media at large, and the cycling media is no exception, has a tendency to create an alternative and sometimes unrealistic view of real events. report it often enough and this lateral view becomes every bit as real as real life. cyclocross has frequently borne the brunt of this alternative view, its alleged increase in popularity being described as an explosion in numbers of both participants and spectators. is that something that's true about cyclocross racing in scotland?
"When the association was set up you were lucky if you got 40 people attending any event, but now 400 is more often the norm. I think this is because it's so easy to rock up, pin on a number and race. Cyclocross is affordable, accessible and whole families can and do race nowadays. Now people are focusing their whole racing season on cyclocross, where before it was an add-on at the end of the mountain bike xc or road season."
if the numbers competing were once traditionally rather thin on the ground, there really should be little obstacle to incorporating increased numbers into the fold. but on the basis that there's nothing surer than change, one or two events are always bound to fall by the wayside as sure as cantilevers give way to discs. if the popularity of cyclocross in scotland is on the increase, does that mean the number of events is on the increase too?
"We have made mistakes in the past by bringing in courses that either weren't suitable, or the organisers realised that it wasn't for them and subsequently left us in the lurch at the last minute. We now make sure organisers have held at least one event before it'll be considered for the series. In fact, preferably two prior events, as often what seemed a great course when you and your mates were ragging round a field, can dissolve very quickly when there are 120 racers charging into that bit of single track you like.
"However, the series this year offers an event every fortnight from the start of October to the middle of December. There will also be a whole whole host of non-series races in the blank weekends right through to February. Overall, the number of events probably equals the numbers of ten years ago, but they're now having to cope with far higher numbers than ever before.
"I'd love to see a bazillion local, non-series races, where folks could dip their toes into 'cross without having to enter the main series before they're ready. Such events could be made into a local series of events arranged through Scottish Cycling regions, or just whatever suits."
the number of professional events taking place on the european mainland has diminished over the years. italy has all but excused itself from the uci championship series and france is hardly awash with courses allowing the likes of van der haar, nys and vantornout to show just what a clean pair of heels truly is. hopefully this isn't the presage of an international disappearing act, but there's little doubt that as the costs of presenting events increases annually, there are bound to be those who figure there has to be an easier way to spend the weekend. has scottish cyclocross suffered a drop in venues in recent times?
"Unfortunately we have lost a lot of the older courses due to organisers moving on, the interruption of building work, a sheer overwhelming number of participants where the venue can no longer cope, or something as simple as lack of parking. The Mull race is now the oldest surviving event at ten years old this year. Additionally, there have been a number of new events coming forward, which is absolutely brilliant. They will hopefully keep the scene going from strength to strength long into the future."
as i have made mention to the point of tiresomeness, thewashingmachinepost has no cunning plan. there are still days when i sit down in the leather armchair after a hard day on the croft, with quite literally no idea of what i am about to write. i'm sure the subsequent words have made that very plain on more than just a single occasion. however, i'm only one bloke and the absence of any sort of plan is unlikely to be a serious hurdle (did you see what i did there?). a national cyclocross championship series is a whole 'nuther bucket of course tape. in which case, what is the cunning plan?
"Lazer Helmets and Ridley Bikes have sponsored us for the last couple of years and their input and enthusiasm have helped make our events more professional and enjoyable. We now have a big new sponsor to announce on 1 September which I think will help take us to the next level (again). Hopefully we'll promote a couple of the races to full series next year providing a safety net if we lose any more courses over the ummer.
"We've had a bit of a shake-up in the committee, so once the new folks are bedded in, I 'm sure they'll have their own plans for both the series and Scottish cyclocross. Sometimes we've a tendency to hang on too long on committees, making them stale and intransigent. I fervently hope that isn't going to happen with SCX, but that probably means my days are numbered..."
currently the online presence of scottish cyclocross is at scottishcyclocross.org.uk but with the sponsorship announcement on 1 september will come a new site at scottishcx.org.uk. if you want to find out more, those are the places to go.
many thanks to davie graham for his assistance with this feature
saturday 22 august 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
in 1953, henry cornelius, producer of the ealing studios classic passport to pimlico had left the studio in order to work as an independent. however, with his new found solo status, he contacted director michael balcon with a view to having him produce genevieve for his erstwhile employers. the précis of his movie concerned the humorous travels of two couples taking part in the annual london to brighton veteran car run. ealing's production schedule did not have an appropriate slot in which to make genevieve and cornelius hadn't exactly distinguished himself with the studio by having left in the first place. to change matters even further, balcon subsequently turned him down and cornelius eventually produced and directed the movie himself for rank studios.
the stars of this comedy, made very much in the ealing style, were john gregson, dinah sheridan, kay kendall and kenneth more. even joyce grenfell put in an appearance as an hotel proprietrix, while the theme tune was composed and played by harmonica player larry adler. to underline the comedic tone of genevieve, the opening credits contained the following disclaimer:
'for their patient co-operation the makers of this film express their thanks to the officers and members of the Veteran Car Club of Great Britain. Any resemblance between the deportment of our characters and any club members is emphatically denied
...by the Club.'
the movie became the second most popular film at the british box office in the year of its release.
check out the distance from london to brighton on google and you'll find they have pinned it at just a tad more than 100 kilometres, or 64.6 miles, assuming you head south on the a23. the time offered for completion is that of a smidgeon under two hours, though oddly the travel time increases marginally if either the m23 or m25 are incorporated in the route. since london is quite a big town, the total distance would also depend on just where in london you were to set off from. the present day london to brighton veteran car run, organised by the royal automobile club, departs from hyde park, arriving all those kilometres later at madeira drive, near brighton marina, overlooking the english channel.
but it's not just vintage car owners and drivers that occupy themselves by driving from the country's capital to the sea shore. cyclists do the very same thing. the do it for charity london to brighton bike ride starts from clapham common on 6 september this year and covers a slightly more modest 54 miles to madeira drive by way of mitcham, carshalton, chipstead, banstead, haywords heath before arriving at that eagerly sought brighton finish line.
the yorkshire-based encephalitis society, a charity campaigning to provide support, awareness and research for inflammation of the brain has five free places on this year's event for those who fancy a trip to the seaside while benefiting the charity by raising much needed funds. according to cassie meegan-vickers, the charity's funding co-ordinator, "We'd be more than happy to set up a 'just giving' page to save any hassle.". other than riding 54 miles south, of course.
if you're likely to find yourself at something of a loose end on the first weekend of next month, filled to overflowing with fitness gained over the summer months, send an e-mail to cassie at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 01653 602062, before hassling the living daylights out of your friends and colleagues to contribute to that just giving page. i'd suggest that, for the duration, any similarity between yourself and the professional peloton ought to be purely coincidental.
friday 21 august 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
it's something of a necessity to have an ordnance survey map of islay easily to hand around the office. for though it seems self-evident to us that a newspaper is in the business of disseminating information via its printed and digital pages, it would appear that we are also expected to fulfil some of the more arcane tourist enquiries over what passes for the summer months in the hebrides. many of these relate to family history information, with a sizeable number of individuals keen to figure out from whence their ancestors originated prior to the clearances.
islay was once home to a population of around 15,000, a number that compares rather favourably against the present day census of around 3,200, the latter testifying to a decreasing population continuing even over the past decade or so. it's apparently a vicissitude that has also attached itself to argyll and bute region. this drastic reduction in population over the last century or so, means that scattered across the more obscure regions of the isle are a number of abandoned townships and crofts that were once home to former ileachs.
a number of these bear either norse or gaelic names, neither of which are readily pronounceable by those domiciled in north america and the antipodes. nor, indeed, are they particularly easy to find, since many of the local archives are less than specific as to geographical location. thus, in order either to find the ancient villages or to direct these international enquirers in the right direction, an ordnance survey map is entirely necessitous.
however, no matter the particular version of an os map you may have yourselves, they have much in common with assemble it yourself furniture. the latter, almost without fail, will be seemingly complete after several hours of serious frustration, yet there on the carpet is a hinge, three screws and a number of oddly shaped dowels that were obviously highly reticent to identify themselves during the assembly process.
though modern day ordnance survey maps mostly display an attractive view of the area in question on the front, all are immaculately folded to a standard size. yet open these out to find the precise location of an obscure town or location and, if you're anything like the rest of us, you will fail miserably trying to restore it to its original, pristine condition. we have even resorted to laying the entire unfolded map across the office floor and held an impromptu conference amongst ourselves as to how it should be all put back in place. sadly, not always with the desired effect.
i would normally think of this as a personal incompetence, but it seems i may have been too harsh on myself. for dan mather, the very fellow that would be top of your list should you need quality screen-printed artwork, suffers at least occasionally, from a similar problem. and unlike the rest of us who would simmer in frustrated silence, dan has worked this pleated incongruity to good effect in his latest artwork for the quadrennial brevet that takes the intrepid cyclist (such as dromarti's philipp hympendahl) from paris to brest and back again to paris. as dan himself said "This particular silkscreen poster pays homage to this audacious journey inspired by the folds of Ordnance Survey maps that are ubiquitous with randonneuring."
it's at times like this that i wish i was that clever. these screened a2 posters have been hand-printed by dan in a limited edition of 50 and are available at the very reasonable cost of £25 each plus the inevitable postage and packing. the colourway is, according to dan "A rich and dusky metallic bronze and dark blue". the paris-brest-paris example is the latest in dan's personal cycling series, preceded by the likes of classics, echelon, hors categorie and hard day's night.
it's nice to know that it's not simply the physical aspect of british cycling that is experiencing a resurgence of quality. you can order your own copy from the link below.
thursday 20 august 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
sponsorship in the world of cycling generally follows a pre-conceived plan. commercially speaking, someone in a boardroom likely figured that the corporate logo on the front of a cycle jersey would be the ideal means of promoting whatever product it is that the factory produces. ad hoc arrangements are few and far between, so more often than not, the team in question are well aware of how long the arrangement is intended to last; you can imagine the pre-race awkward silence in the team bus if the sponsor opened with "you're going to laugh when i tell you..."
the percussive world of drumming kind of works the other way round. here, the musician (there are guitarists laughing at that description) effectively endorses the product, along the lines of "i am unnervingly famous and i have decided that i will play your drumset in order to make you also unnervingly famous and popular." though on the face of it, there's little wrong with such an arrangement, the gravitas behind subsequent advertising is drastically undermined when said unnervingly famous drummer jumps ship to play someone else's drums or cymbals. or in the case of vinnie colaiuta, both at once.
however, all the above corporate arrangements take place behind closed magazine covers, meaning the first any of us who follow such matters have any inkling, is when said percussor turns up at a clinic on his new benefactor's stand at namm in january behind a set of drums that look wholly out of place. the disconnect is the juxtaposition of drummer and noisy stuff.
now i mean no disrespect to the good fellows at cyclefit in london's macklin street, but i cannot hide the fact that their recently announced sponsorship of the london cross league seemed as likely as billy cobham playing paiste cymbals and premier drums. of course, the surprise is mine and probably not yours; i'd imagine those who thunder through the undergrowth at weekends are every bit as much in need of bicycle fitting as are the refugees from the peloton. yet i have always associated cyclefit with road cyclists and, dare i say it, triathletes.
in respect of the three year contract, co founder of cyclefit, julian (jules) wall said "We're delighted to support London Cross League. It's a great way for people to get into competitive cycling. The racing is fun and ideal for improving bike-handling skills."
with john mullineux of the league stating "Like us, they're big cross fans.", i now feel decidedly silly for having expressed any surprise at the conjoining of two like minds over mud and barriers. maybe i need to get out more.
london cross league commences on sunday 6 september at stanmer park in brighton and continues until sunday 7 february next year.
wednesday 19 august 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
britain's so-called domestic scene has quite possibly never been healthier. i confess i have no knowledge as to the remuneration that can be expected by a british professional rider, but it does seem that there are considerably more of them nowadays than there were when i woke up to the fact that you could actually race bicycles. it would be leaning heavily towards sycophancy to attribute this all to the wiggins bubble where anything positive that has happened to british cycling, including that of an increase in the number of women's teams, results from the tour and olympics in 2012.
the stalwarts of the current scene would arguably be jlt condor, having started as rapha condor what seems like a long time ago and before rapha moved onto the blue stripes in the world tour. but since then the british race scene has witnessed various incarnations of the endura team, nfto, madison genesis, team wiggins and one-pro cycling.
the latter was co-founded, surprisingly enough, by cricketer matt prior and intended to be much more than just a race team by offering a membership scheme to their fans. this entails creating a series of events and experiences across the country allowing fans to get closer to the riders and management. so popular was this, that the one-pro cycling website currently shows membership for the 2015 to be closed, presumably due to oversubscription. for those that maybe weren't successful, there's always 2016 to look forward to.
2016, in fact, may offer even more value for money, so to speak, as one-pro cycling have applied to move up the ranks to pro continental at the end of the current season. chief executive for one-pro cycling, matt prior attributed this season's success and enthusiasm for the decision to push themselves further into the melée, a level that offers the possibility of wild card entries to the grand tours and other major races.
winner of the 2015 elite circuit series, twenty-four year-old jon mould began bike racing ten years ago, joining british cycling's olympic development programme in 2009. his career has included representing wales at the delhi commonwealth games in 2010, riding with sean kelly's an post team in 2012, moving onto team uk youth for the following season before signing for the successful nfto race team in 2014. this year he has raced in one-pro cycling colours, whose team principal is the ever youthful and continually successful yanto barker. (yanto is also owner of le col cycle clothing, suppliers of one-pro cycling's jerseys, shorts etc.)
mould's road career has undoubtedly benefited from his strong track background, but as the former develops, does it become harder to switch between the two?
"It has always been something I've done, switching between both since I was a Junior, but the past winter was the first time I didn't spend any time on the boards. It's always worked for me I think, but with the UCI taking bunch races (scratch/points/madison) out of the World Cups, it made my decision easier to concentrate solely on the road last winter."
it is a strange quirk of human nature that we often find ourselves having to choose between to aspects of the same discipline. do i want to be a rock drummer or a jazz drummer? would it be better to run marathons or 100 metre sprints? should i throw all my eggs into the photoshop basket, or illustrator, or try my best to be good at both? oddly enough, there's very often no real good reason to make the choice; many of us have every capability to be good at more than a single subject or activity. was there ever a point where jon felt it necessary to decide between track or road?
"I haven't left it completely behind. I usually get on the track if the weather is bad in Newport which is quite often in December! I'm planning on getting back on it and hopefully be in good shape for the Commonwealth Games in 2018 on the Gold Coast."
though you will understand that the following conjecture comes from one who has never pinned a number on his back, track riding and criterium racing have one obvious thing in common; they go round in circles. this is excellent from a spectator's point of view, contrasting sharply with the whizzing past of a peloton in full flight during any road race you care to mention. through the less than knowledgeable eyes of yours truly, it strikes me that the skills of one circular form of racing might be of great assistance when applied to another. did jon's track background play to his strengths in the elite circuit series and the tour series, or are they two different sides of the same coin?
"I think it has helped me, but it's not always the case that track riders are good at crits. the Tour Series is a hard form of racing one that just seems to suit me. I think i'm just lucky to be honest!"
i have a number of friends in london and across the pond who exhibit a startlingly opposite approach to employment than do i. many of them seem to think nothing of eschewing their current employment for something that, to me at least, seems a tad shakier in the longevity stakes. perhaps, for the ambitious, staying put for any length of time is a sign of complacency. mould has continually moved onward and upward, but having ridden for the successful nfto team last year, what attracted him to up sticks and join one-pro cycling for this year?
"The main reason was (Performance Coach) Steve Benton. When I found out he was moving full-time with the team it kind of made my decision for me. I had worked with him in both 2013 and 2014 which really helped me progress on the road and track, along with Darren Tudor who is the National Welsh coach.
"Another good reason was the plan behind the team. It wasn't just about the UK; it had a plan to progress and I admit it was a risk at first. but I really felt like I could believe it and ONE Pro cycling have showed everyone what they're about now. It makes me feel proud to be part of it."
many streams of employment require that their young acolytes are dropped in at the deep end to see if they can swim. if they don't, there are always plenty more waiting on the sidelines. sports are different and for very good reason; gaining the best from a young cyclist is likely to be a lot harder if they're asked to race everything in the season, get in every break on every race and train like there was no tomorrow. what's the setup at one-pro cycling for a young professional and does jon hope to continue into 2016?
"It's really good. You're looked after and never really have to worry about anything other than making sure you're doing what you need to on your bike. It is quite a young team and to be honest I feel like I'm one of the older ones and I'm 24! As to next year, nothing is signed yet, but it would be an amazing opportunity. It is obvious (to me) that this is the place to help me move my career forward."
is it perhaps the case that the very nature of professional british domestic racing means that it's often hard to spend the bulk of a career with one team?
"I think it is, but I always want to move forward. To be honest, when I was sat in an Academy meeting in 2009, I didn't imagine or plan on racing in the UK."
if you've ever been in the situation where you find yourself on the same roads as a current or former professional rider you'll know exactly what i mean when i point out the feeling of helplessness as they ride past in deep conversation while you are breathing through your ears and counting the number of black spots in front of your eyes. there must be a similar set of circumstances when a uci continental rider nips out for a pedal with a world tour rider. in such a situation, you either figure those are stratospheres you will never inhabit, or you knuckle down and train like stink. does jon harbour ultimate ambitions to move up to world tour, or are breaks like that hard to come by?
"Yes of course. World Tour is the aim. I want to race and compete in the biggest races in the world. I grew up wanting to win/race in all those events you see on TV and that hasn't changed!"
and while we're on that subject, is there any road race or track event in the great big world of professional cycle racing that jon would really like to win?
"On the track, I want to win a Commonwealth Games Gold medal. I had a great year in 2014, but personally I think it wasn't a successful one and ultimately a bit of a disappointment. I was ill in the build-up to Glasgow and didn't perform as I'm capable of doing, so I've got some unfinished business with Commonwealth track events!
"On the road it's easy to aim or to say you want to win any certain race! But imagine winning Milan-San Remo, in my opinion the best race on the pro calendar. To be honest to just race it would be an honour and an amazing experience, but that is my favourite race and the one I pretended I was riding when it was raining and I was attacking my mates on a climb when I was 17!"
thursday this past week saw the 169th running of islay's annual agricultural show, after which, as local lore would have it, winter sets in. there's an unfortunate parallel with the road season, for though there are plenty of events following july's tour de france, it often seems as if the season has ended on the champs elysées. apparently for bertie the accountant, it actually has. but road racing seems no longer to have an off-season, when riders keen to maintain their hard won fitness would fit in a season of cyclocross. has jon ever taken the latter course of action?
"I've done one cyclocross race. I rode it on Sam Harrison's spare cross bike when we were Juniors. It was quite fun, but it was cold and wet, I fell off a few times and they had those hurdles in the way! So I never did it again!"
grateful thanks to jon mould and yanto barker for assistance with this article.
tuesday 18 august 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
quick mention for those intending to visit islay's shores on a bike during the summer. velo club d'ardbeg recommended coffee/tea stops - in no particular order.
club headquarters at the old kiln cafe, ardbeg distillery. excellent food as well as designer coffees with froth. the single malt is apparently just ginger peachy. open monday to saturday from easter to september, seven days from june to september.
bruichladdich mini market (debbie's cafe), a few hundred yards from the distillery. highly commended designer coffees with outside tables. we like. open all year round with a cycling wall in the coffee corner...........................................................................................................................................................................................................
as always, if you have any comments, please feel free to e-mail and thanks for reading...........................................................................................................................................................................................................