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interviews & features | dvds | equipment | clothing | books | videos | portland 2009

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this is cambridge
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tell them we sent you (part one)

somewhere in the world it's always going to be sunny, and the honed athlete will thus always be in need of an appropriate choice of designer/sports sunglasses. this link ought to do the trick.

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the mighty dave t's words of the week

the mighty dave t

"i was half way up the road this morning when i figured something didn't seem quite right. i'd forgotten my bike."

©2014 the mighty dave t, is a prendas sponsored rider and le patron of the thoroughly decent fellows. the mighty dave t recommends purple harry products

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jog2gib ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

gone but not forgotten

road dropout

in a similar manner to noting that there always seems to be just the right amount of news to fill a daily newspaper, and that only enough people pass away to fill the obituary pages, it's remarkably coincidental to note that when either eurobike or interbike happen by, the world's bicycle and component manufacturers have new product to show. though they may have been beavering away in secluded estrangement all year, by some strange quirk of fate, all comes together just around the end of august. not only that, but the entirely separate marketing departments have booklets, brochures and posters completed in a similar time frame.

that means they must have known before us.

road dropout

i have never attended either of the above major shows, though like every other bicycle geek, i have drooled over the photos on websites that did have the budget to send at least one member of staff in the first place. a bit like tuning a guitar, eventually it becomes harder to figure out quite what's happening. there's little doubt that one or two (or more) of the world's cycle purveyors merely offer last year's model in a different colour. after more than one hundred years of the bicycle, it's quite possible that there are remarkably few innovations yet to be seen.

and just to put an even bigger dampener on proceedings, at the risk of repeating myself, if everyone is using finite element analysis to design their carbon technology, since they're all asking the same questions, it's likely the answers are pretty similar. however, the bicycle industry is not the only one to be caught in this infinite spiral, so it would be counter-productive of me to continue this line of argument.

but just occasionally it's the small changes that cause the greatest effect. or perhaps i might transmute that to the word disaffection; an over-exaggeration in this case i'll admit, but often writ large is the only way to go.

road dropout

in 2009, chris king's cielo bicycle division were kind enough to send a sportif model across the pond for some scottish hebridean evaluation. the journey that the black steel bicycle and i took across the island's highways and byeways has been extensively documented for your reading pleasure via the link currently appearing on your left. that bicycle is still in thewashingmachinepost bike shed, still greatly favoured by yours truly, and proving to be every bit as good as i originally said it was.

though the sportif classic was the sole original model on offer from cielo, the range was soon augmented with a cyclocross model, a sportif racer, a 29er mountain bike and subsequently the enve carbon fork equipped cross racer, ending recently with the cielo racer, based on the latter and offered in both standard and disc versions. (one of these days i might conceivably get round to reviewing a cielo racer). there was the promise of a flat bar, big tyred overlander, but as far as i can ascertain, it has yet to be seen commercially.

though streamlining of an extensive range is not solely confined to nw nela street, but with the advent of the cielo racer, it was decided to combine the sportif classic and sportif racer into one single, celebrated sportif model, announced in time for this weekend's eurobike. so, we collectively asked, what's changed? what features have been gained or lost in this amalgamation? though i can logically see the reason for the almost solitary difference, i find myself bemoaning the answer to the question above. from a purely personal and traditional point of view, i'd really rather they'd combined them in the opposite manner.

road dropout

my cielo sportif classic sports highly attractive, shiny, stainless steel road dropouts. for the more recently velocipedinally constituted, the road dropout can also be described as horizontal, meaning that not only can the wheel be moved forward or back, but with an incorrectly tightened skewer, can pull hard to the left chainstay under pressure. sure, the latter happenstance is a bit of a bummer at the time, but it's easily sorted (unless you happen to be giving it welly on the 15th hairpin on alpe d'huez. ouch).

the cielo sportif racer, however, featured the more contemporary and ubiquitous vertical dropout, first seen on mountain bikes back in the day, and now pretty much de rigeur on every carbon frame. there's little doubt that centreing the wheel is a whole lot simpler vertically than horizontally, but i can't help feeling we've lost another part of our road-going heritage with this change. for while my stainless steel horizontal dropouts contain adjustable axle stops, vertical makes those redundant.

sour apple green headset

the cielo sportif is still a fabulous bicycle; i have rarely ridden better, steel or otherwise, but i still favour old-style road dropouts, no matter what chris king says.

but just to finish on something of a high note, apple are quite patently not the only americans besotted with carefully crafted colour additions to the panoply already on offer. with the advent of the iphone 5c and its variety of bright colours, there was now an alternative to the less ostentatious gold and silver of the 5s. for those of a more exhibitionist nature, these are happy days. chris king have long offered some fabulous colours for their hubs, bottom brackets and headsets, but more recently have begin to augment the standard fare with limited edition colours that, if nothing else, bring a smile to the collective visage in the peloton. beginning with purple and last year's turquoise, the 2014 limited edition colour is the admirably named sour apple green.

available as of yesterday, if it's the sort of colour that would just set off that new cielo sportif to a tea, i'd get in their quickly before apple seasn is over.

cielo bicycles

thursday 28 august 2014

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rouleur issue 49 ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

benedicto:

dan sharp: benedicto

there are machinations afoot in the universe that are outside the ken of most, if not all of us. the particular serendipitous happenstance that gave rise to the following was by way of a single e-mail on monday, followed by a second on tuesday. both were ostensibly from portland photographer, daniel sharp, but in truth, due to those with little better to occupy their time, they weren't really. being the fine, upstanding member of the community i like to think myself to be, i replied in order to inform mr sharp that his e-mail address had ceased to be his exclusive property.

dan sharp: benedicto

you may well be familar with daniel sharp's excellent work, particularly if you subscribe to rouleur magazine. in issue 48, he accompanied managing editor ian cleverly to visit the litespeed factory on the very day when the guys had a day off, and in the current issue, he accompanied the same gentleman to interview and photograph cycling's wunderkid, taylor phinney. however, daniel has more than just a single string to his bow; though photography forms a major part of his latest project, there is a good deal more physicality involved.

dan sharp: benedicto

launched only a matter of days ago, benedicto: is the new repository for daniel's exploration of just what the word adventure really means. as he mentions in his introduction "I've gotten to a point where I felt like I was hoarding valuable information and stories and didn't feel like I had a good way to share my adventures. The occasional Instagram post and a small flurry of 'likes' left me unsatisfied." in common with many of us, he had cause to lament the demise of rouleur's offroad stablemate privateer, not least because he had just started shooting images for its delectable pages. "Apparently it's a tough time for beautiful, expensive print magazines. Shame about that."

dan sharp: benedicto

acknowledging the fact that the world of social media is in the process of over-using the word adventure he decided that a more earthy and pragmatic investigation of the word's real meaning might not be a bad way to proceed. hence benedicto:

on the website's about page, a clue to the definition of the site's title is made manifest by way of the edward abbey poem of the same name. there's something of a clue in the first words of that poem: "May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view." the best that contemporary photography has to offer is something of a given, and if all you fancy doing is looking at the pictures and glossing over the words, there is plenty to occupy your time and interest. however, given that the man is no slouch when it comes to the written word, a greater appreciation of his explorations might well be in order.

dan sharp: benedicto

there's little doubt that the united states of america offers one heck of a large amount of open spaces just waiting for someone riding a seven bikes 29er mountain bike to come knocking on the plains. there are probably several sites across the pond that offer similar fare, whether from the viewpoint of the intrepid walker, the hardy mountain biker or even from the water splattered lens of the white water rapids fellow. but where else would you find such an exotic recipe to feed the exploratory desire as bison chilli?

i think my point is well-made.

dan sharp: benedicto

though benedicto: is by definition, a work in progress, daniel sharp's wanderings have so far brought him to the arizona trail race, an event captured in all its glory via sharp's impeccable photography. similarly his explorations in the unique topography of alaska, in particular, the kenai peninsula. i agree that my occupying yellow and black pixels with testimony to the benefits of long-travel suspension and knobbly tyres is somewhat unusual, for i have long protested that mountain biking is a genre of cycling best left to the experts. however, it would be unseemly to look a gift horse in the mouth, so to speak.

dan sharp: benedicto

if you have already enjoyed daniel sharp's photography via rouleur and other cycling publications, it's now time to learn more about not only the man himself, but the wide-open spaces his home country affords. there are few better qualified to catalogue these features while selflessly demonstrating his thirst for adventure.

"...and down again into a deep vast ancient unknown chasm where bars of sunlight blaze on profiled cliffs, where deer walk across the white sand beaches, where storms come and go as lightning clangs upon the high crags, where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you..."

benedicto:

photos © daniel sharp 2014

wednesday 27 august 2014

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 wabi woolens ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

cross dressing

bridgend woods

even though the vuelta started on saturday, leading off to a suspect team time-trial distance over what appeared to be a hotel swimming pool, some (and i do not necessarily include myself amongst such numbers) could care less. and the existence of a one-day, pro-tour german cycle race over the weekend will have made no difference to that situation. for the folks i'm rather vaguely alluding to, view the road season as simply something that gets in the way of cyclocross.

you know this to be true.

in a possibly vain attempt to remain topical, i have arranged to road test a rather delectable pair of carbon wheels shod with an equally delectable pair of hand-made cyclocross tyres. the result of these ministrations will follow in due course, but meanwhile, i think i may have happened upon a set of circumstances that has been prevalent over the last few years, yet gone unheeded by yours truly.

though not specifically required by this set of circumstances, the fact that my ibis hakkalugi cyclocross bicycle is lime green has at least some bearing on the following. i think. my relative incompetence in the field, happily for now, is pretty much by the by, for when including and discussing members of the civilian population, other than my unsuccesful attempts to re-mount in the manner of nys, powers et al, there is little to give me away as a total amateur.

bridgend woods

the professionalism of the bicycle is not remotely in question, dressed as it is in a pair of deep carbon rimmed wheels from a notable dutch manufacturer, professionally constituted tyres of a brand used by the richard sachs cyclocross team (without atmo written on the sidewall), carbon frame, sram force gearset and fsa carbon cantilevers (just to add a non-disc belgian flavour to proceedings). if i'm totally honest, there is little to be disparaged in the clothing front either, clad head to toe in product with a prominent scorpion badge and a giro helmet.

however, remove the above from the mental picture you may have constructed and shift it three miles north of bowmore village, right in the centre of bridgend woods. there, i have carved a particularly enervating 'cross-style circuit, frequent repetition of which is guaranteed to turn both legs and arms to jelly, including a steep grassy track over which the ibis has need of being carried. never forget, i'm not getting any younger. lest i get carried away by saying "tonight, matthew, i'm going to be jeremy powers.", bridgend woods is more commonly the habitat of saturday morning dog-walkers.

bridgend woods

making sure that i underline my professional intent, as i begin the first circuit, i've been sure to put my race-face on, advising rabbits, red deer and pheasants that i've no intention of taking any prisoners. but if i can commend myself to take a step backwards and view from the point of view of an innocent bystander, imagine the incongruity of yours truly in attack mode, haring past a married couple out walking their collie dog, an animal that has scant regard for just how good these tyres really are.

to add insult to incongruity, the very definition of a circuit means that, on at least one or two occasions, i am bound to pass by the same point. in this case, that couple and their dog are a repetitive, yet moving point. on the second pass, though somewhat breathless, i feel it necessary to point out that i'm riding circuits and apologise for interrupting their otherwise calm and peaceful walk amongst the trees.

place at least some of the above in context; the selfsame circuit edged with branded tape wrapped around nearby trees and fence posts, more than one similarly clad cyclocross rider and a cacophony of cowbells. it's incredible what passes for normal. if my peloton were larger, consisting of more than one, there's a case for the dog walkers being thought the elephant in the room. but by innocuously and perhaps accidentally proselytising the case of cycling as a rather fun activity, perhaps there's an opportunity to normalise the abnormal, one or two dog-walkers at a time.

maybe.

tuesday 26 august 2014

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colorado calling danny boy. part nine...

usa pro challenge

The end of a race is an anti-climax. You want to celebrate, party, have a laugh, sink a couple of beers, but that's not possible. These guys are all professionals. So the hard truth is that the cars brought the riders back to the team hotel, a quick shower and change, while the mechanics broke up the bikes and put them into bags. The scene at the team hotel was manic.

usa pro challenge

Gels, used bidons, rider cards, were all being gathered and put into bags for the flight home. As I write, the entire team are at Denver International and checking in on BA218 to Heathrow. All are at the back of the bus. They will land mid-day on Monday and on Tuesday a number of them will be in Northern France racing again.

That's real tough.

It's been a fantastic week. We have seen all the tweets and the messages on Facebook. One that asked when the team was going to do anything was discussed over breakfast one morning. I so wish that the author of that message was sitting at the table with us; I so wish that he could have seen the faces of the riders as they got off their bikes; I so wish they could have heard Tom speak to me this afternoon, his vocal chords clearly affected by the heat and altitude.

usa pro challenge

On paper it looks like they have done nothing, but that's not the view of JLT. We are real proud of these guys and what they have just endured. This is a fantastic team, a real mix of young, of ageing, a great DS, mechanics, swannies that carry our marque really well and a press team that is the coolest around (although I think that both Tom and Claire read this with trepidation every morning, hoping that I am not penning it late at night after that last gin and tonic).

So today, who cares? On Sunday's final stage, Hugh got into an early break but Jens decided to take off as it was his last race. We don't expect Hugh Carthy to hold Jens Voigt's wheel. It's not important. What I can tell you is that everyone in the bar was coming up to me and saying thanks for coming and all saying "please come back". So today a UHC rider had a turettes attack against Hugh as they flew into Denver, but then felt guilty, came up and apologised. usa pro challenge He recognised that, actually, our guys are not like that, that deep down despite their age they are gents. And that's not a bad thing.

We like that.

I think that a few lessons have been learned, but what I can publicly announce, despite the sad loss of Rapha, is that yes you will see the Men in Black next year, and hopefully here in Colorado.

Thanks all for reading and with best wishes.

© Charlie Pearch 2014.

i'd like to offer my sincere gratitude to the rapha condor jlt team, to tom southam and most importantly, to charlie pearch, for this series of reports from colorado. perhaps we can do it all again next year?

monday 25 august 2014

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honey stinger organic energy chews

honey stinger organic chews

my parents were never too restrictive when it came to sweets. opposite the primary school was a little tuck shop on the corner, selling all sorts of sugary nonsense designed to make us all hyperactive, fill us up with empty calories and rot our teeth in the process. and yet i was provided with pocket money to buy this rubbish without specific advice to think healthy. in mitigation, there was very little onus on anyone to eat healthily in the late sixties, early seventies.

however, along with a minimal number of alcoholic beverages in the so-called cocktail cabinet, there were few sweets or biscuits in the sweetie cupboard, other than perhaps the occasional box of milk tray kept for saturday and sunday night. on both those evenings, the box would be lifted from its cupboard residence and my brother and i would be offered one each. two if we'd been particularly good that week.

however, at around nine years old, i pretty much lost my appetite for sweets of any nature. that box would still be offered at weekends, but more often than not, after that age, i would politely refuse. and to be honest, ever since then i have very rarely added the occasional sweet to my diet. as a vegetarian, i'd like to think that i do eat more healthily these days, though the rapidly diminishing number of meat-free products in the local average market is making that harder and harder to accomplish. however, even when it's time for coffee of an afternoon in the office, i'm more likely to indulge in an oatcake than anything of a more sugary nature.

every now and again, if mr washingmachinepost is overcome with emotions of love and generosity, she'll bring me home a snickers bar as a treat, but even that ends up being sliced in three equal pieces, because truth be told, i couldn't manage an entire snickers in one fell swoop.

this aversion to sweetness in a wrapper has often extended to those energy bars that you'd stick in a rear pocket for sustenance and carb replacement during a particularly energetic outing on two wheels. even carbo drinks are something of a last resort; i'm keener on simply having a bottle of water on the bike, for i figure i'm at an age and fitness level where there's no sign of redemption; it's probably downhill from here on in.

one of the joys of living on an island that has acquired an attraction for cyclists of all ages, genres, nationalities and abilities is that on occasion one or two of them will join us for the sunday ride. sometimes invited, but more often just turning up on spec. we are nothing if not welcoming, and the more the merrier as far as we're concerned. the downside to this is that more than just a few own velocipedinal abilities well in excess of our own. at those times, either we have to pretend that the rest of the week is spent training at intensities that demand a restful experience on a sunday, or simply mtfu and pedal as hard as we can.

we were joined on sunday past by a very tall german on a mountain bike (replete with knobbly tyres), who opened conversation with a disclaimer; "i hope i can keep up." those are some of the friendliest words you can hear on a sunday morning, because unless he was bluffing (and i think he was), we'd be able to ride in our usual mobile conversation pattern, while appearing to be most welcoming.

honey stinger organic chews

those knobbly tyres undoubtedly slowed him down a tad on the climb to storakaig, but i believe i heard him mention in conversation that he was a former racing cyclist; never a good sign. of course, unless of a particularly evil constitution, visiting cyclists rarely have a predilection for showing up their local hosts. it's worth bearing in mind that few of them have any idea of where we're going or, indeed, where they are at any given moment. you don't want to alienate the tour guides.

however, wishing to fulfil the demands of the host with the most, i offered my cycling companions either a pomegranate passion or lime ade organic energy chew from honey stinger, a company who used to offer (and perhaps still do for all i know) rather sickly sweet energy bars in which the honey content was a bit overwhelming. but the organic energy chews are of an entirely different hue; small enough to pop one in the mouth with ease, either to chew or swallow in a one-er. both flavours are pleasant and enjoyable, so much so that several were consumed over the course of the morning (mostly by me).

scientific analysis is rarely an activity that can be accomplished while riding from debbie's to bridgend, or even on the road to mulindry. therefore any perceived benefits have to be measured by more subjective observation, in this case the rate of travel towards the sprint point at bruichladdich. lord carlos was comfortably ahead as we entered the last 500 metres, with our german compatriot only a few bike lengths behind. the mighty dave and myself had decided simply to roll in at the back, before i figured that neither of those leading would expect a crafty spring from behind. so i hit it hard, sneaked up on both and passed the 30mph signs on my own.

though you may think i doth protest too much, i'd generally not think of myself as a competitive spirit. sneaking a victory in the above manner is more down to a developed sense of mischief than any need to be victorious. in this case, however, i'd figure the fact that i had consumed one or two more honey stinger energy chews than the rest of the peloton aided and abetted what, at the time, seemed something of a lost cause of a sprint.

mind you, i did have five peach slices atop my extra porage oats at breakfast as opposed to the more regular sunday morning portion of four.

in a 50 gram packet of chews (and i've no idea how many are in a packet; we ate most of them before i thought to count), there is 39g of carbohydrate, no fat whatsoever and 60mg of vitamin c. there's the obvious disclaimer that your own mileage may vary, but the worst that can happen is that you munch one or two rather pleasant tasting sweeties. one pack of any flavour retails for around £2.99 or they can be purchased in boxes of two dozen for £24.99. a single pack fits in a rear jersey pocket with ease.

honey stinger organic chews are distributed in the uk by 2pure | honey stinger

monday 25 august 2014

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colorado calling danny boy. part eight...

vail, colorado

The USA Pro Cycling Challenge have done us all proud, two fabulous hotels in the ski resorts of Breckenridge and tonight in Vail. Vail is a particularly nice town, a town where money appears to be no object. I am told that the pavements have under-soil heating in the winter, but it is out of the reach of all but a handful of cyclists as it's a town where apartments change hands for millions of dollars.

vail, colorado

Yesterday's stage (Saturday) was a ten mile individual time-trial from the Village of Vail to Vail Pass, ascending from 8,150 ft to 9,663 ft. The good news was the fact that there was a tailwind up the valley; the bad news was that it was raining and rather chilly. The other teams were better equipped than us in terms of TT bikes and turbos to warm up on. Logistically these would have just been impossible to transport across the pond, so the team had to warm up on the road and fitted clip-on aero bars.

I sat in the car that followed Rich Handley who had ridden so well the day before to take 8th place ahead of Tejay van Garderen. The first part of the parcours seemed fairly benign, and our thoughts were that yesterday's effort must surely be taking a toll. It was grey and miserable, but something was dreadfully amiss and clearly Rich was having a technical issue. Without a spare bike on the roof, we had no alternative but to urge him onwards, sitting in silence and holding our breath as Rich fought against whatever was wrong.

vail, colorado

The crowd were in good spirits despite the rain and must have helped the riders morale; a small group waved a St George's Cross, and all sorts of cowbells were rung as we passed. Then three riders passed us, including a fast Michael Rogers. One guy appeared to shout something derogatory against the British. Very unnecessary. Then as we neared the top, the crowds were really colourful, and one guy ran alongside Rich shoulder to shoulder which cannot have been easy on him. It had taken Rich 30 minutes of high intensity riding to cross the summit.

Tejay van Garderan won the stage in 24:26, which was 37 seconds faster than his win last year. Rich finished 5:54 in arrears. His technical misfortune had been a bolt on the down tube holding the electronic battery working itself loose and lodging in his bottom bracket. Hugh Carthy was our quickest rider at 4:12 behind Tejay.

All our riders commented that this was a hard stage. Frankly it was grim.

There was good spirit between the Directeurs Sportifs and riders today. Charley Wegelius came over for a chat with Tom as Jonathan Vaughters sailed past waving to us. I grabbed a few minutes with Clement, holder of the youngsters GC, a real nice kid and someone we will see more of over the years. Then it was Ivan Basso's turn to come and say thanks to John for helping him get back into the peloton yesterday.

One day to go...

© Charlie Pearch 2014.

sunday 24 august 2014

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cyclocross 2013/2014 photo album. balint hamvas. cyclephotos hardback. 247pp illus. £29.99

balint hamvas

along with several folks i know of, i too figured adding cyclocross to the winter olympics would be a very good idea. in fact, i was brought to query why cyclocross couldn't have been yet one more cycling discipline in the recently completed glasgow commonwealth games. though 'cross season generally doesn't commence until the more autumnal months, i can't see any real reason why an exception couldn't be made once every four years to hold a race during the summer months (in the case of the commonwealth games) and the somewhat colder months if we're still considering the winter olympics.

balint hamvas

i am, in this case, a great believer in events that offer up a convincing winner, unlike the oddity that is ice-dancing. i've no earthly idea why that is considered a sport, and ultimately, the winner of the event is the result of subjective judging, something that i figure ought to disqaulify it on those grounds alone. however, rumour has it that the ioc are considering a relaxation of the rule that accepts only events and activities relying on snow and/or ice, thus perhaps paving the way for cyclocross at some time in the foreseeable future.

balint hamvas

but stefan wyman disagrees, and in the light of a somewhat convincing argument, maybe he's right. he certainly knows a lot more about cyclocross than most of us.

his argument against a 'cross gold medal on offer every four years is based on "...in its real home of Belgium, less than 20 men compete in the professional National Championships. Is that really where we stand after so many years of the sport gaining huge television coverage? [...] So would Olympic Cross simply provide another televised set of racing in Belgium, where statistics show over 60% of the viewing population already watch the World Championships. Its popularity in Belgium is basically at a maximum."

balint hamvas

cyclocross remains a very small niche sport in the uk, france, italy and many other european countries. north america is a notable exception, with a rather fabulous 'cross scene, but hardly one that would challenge the netherlands or belgium for gold and silver medals. therefore one does have to wonder whether a scoot in the mud every four years would make much difference overall.

you would, of course, be right to query what on earth this has to do with a book ostensibly offering a pictorial record of the 2013/14 european cyclocross season. and the answer is that it forms the basis of a short but pertinent essay by the aforementioned stefan wyman on page 210. in fact, the wymans quite rightly feature large in balint hamvas' excellent book by way of an accompanying photo essay following the oft victorious helen wyman, proving that hamvas has more than one string to his bow.

balint hamvas

i'm no photographer. most of the imagery that emanates from my metallic blue, lumix compact digital is captured via the timer. you would be far less impressed if you were to see all the images i discard. the same may well be the case for balint, but i tend to think not. what i've not managed to figure out, while perusing the huge number of 'cross images in this photobook, is where on earth the chap manages to position himself while clicking the shutter?

it is a conceit of both film and tv that there ought not to appear to be any camera present. we are expected to believe that we are but flies on the wall, observing that which is portrayed before us, and in the majority of cases that's exactly how we proceed. balint hamvas possesses those selfsame skills (as witnessed in that recent video interview with richard mitchelson), applying them well to his cyclocross imagery. i was rarely, if ever, conscious that somewhere along the line, a camera lens had been involved. in several cases it is perfectly believable that hamvas was riding behind the subjects captured by his lens.

balint hamvas

in common with his keen sense of movement and perspective, the man is a master of his art. and his art is now his daily work, as stated in his introduction "...after having been lamenting over it for the last ten years, I have finally left the world of day jobs behind and become a freelance photographer." i do not doubt that he has benefited personally from this career upheaval, but in truth, we are the ones to be truly thankful.

with the 2014/15 cyclocross season almost upon us, the publication of this review of the previous season is most timeous, reminding us of last year's gloop, while creating demand for this year's to hurry up and get started. balint's annual photobooks are every bit as much a part of the sport of cyclocross as a new set of tyres. it makes little difference whether you are a participant with a number on your back, or more like yours truly and simply besotted with falling off in the undergrowth every second saturday.

essential.

purchase the cyclephotos 2013/2014 cyclocross photobook

sunday 24 august 2014

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colorado calling danny boy, part seven...

richard handley

Rapha Condor JLT's Richard Handley managed to be part of a breakaway that succeeded in getting clear of the main bunch on stage five of this USA Pro Challenge. A total of twelve riders, including Handley, fought for the win in Breckenridge.

Richard had suffered in the week's previous stages, but managed eighth place ahead of race leader, Teejay Van Garderen (BMC). He had led a strong chase just in front of twenty-five riders who had broken clear over Hoosier Pass, second last climb of the stage.

For the 23 year-old Rapha Condor JLT rider it was nice to be up at the front end of the race, after the first five days suffering in Colorado State. "I'd felt much better over the past few days, so I was pretty keen on getting in the move today. It took ages for the break to get established, but when we went it was a really good group, with no-one on G.C., so we knew we had a chance of staying away.
richard handley  "The gap went up quickly, but the weather got pretty bad as we went towards the climb. At one point I was totally frozen and it can be quite hard to know how you are going to be at the finish then. Yesterday we were down at less than 2,000m, and we climbed back to over 3,500m over Hoosiers Pass, so the air got pretty thin up there."

His move was broken-up on the climb of Hoosier's Pass, Ben King and Janier Acevedo of Garmin Sharp creating the decisive split. THey were the only team with two riders in the move, but it was Trek Factory Racing's Laurent Didier who pulled clear over the top. Handley remained with four others on the speedy descent into Breckenridge, with a strong chase following them onto the finish circuit.

richard handley

The circuit of five kilometres featured a steep climb measuring 2km with a geadient reaching over 15%, before a technical descent to the line. The leaders reached that final climb 45 seconds ahead of the chase group that included Richard Handley and two minutes ahead of the race leader. Laurent Didier sprinted off the front for the win, while at the top of the last climb, yellow jersey, Tejay Van Garderen, attacked his rivals to close the gap on Handley's group.

Richard hung on to eighth place, after having ridden for 100km in the breakaway, finishing only 1'33'' behind Didier.

Expected to be the deciding stage of theUSA Pro Challenge tomorrow (Saturday) continues with a 16km individual time-trial in Vail, which climbing from 2848 metres to 2,944m.

photos copyright andy bokanev. with thanks to charlie pearch and tom southam

saturday 23 august 2014

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gladys bikes

gladys bikes

in a perfect world, there would be no distinction between the various cycling disciplines. we'd all have equal respect for other velocipedinists whether on road bikes, mountain bikes or bmx, rather than dipping our heads roadwards as someone aboard a more contentious type of bicycle passed on the other side. of course, commercial demands tend towards segregation for marketing, technical or demographic reasons, but ultimately, we're all cyclists traversing the type of roads or off-roads that keep us happy, or get us to and from work.

from a competitive point of view this separation of the disciplines makes more logical sense, for even with astonishing bike handlings skills, danny macaskill would struggle on alpe d'huez, while the atherton twins might find themselves at something of a disadvantage riding knobbly tyres on the sir chris hoy velodrome. but many riders participate in more than one version of the sport, and are no less cyclists for that fact.

gladys bikes

however, though the general public likely views us all as one homogenous bunch, blissfully unaware of the difference between a track bike and jeremy powers' 'cross bike. we are the cognoscenti; we know the difference, but before we slap ourselves on the back for a job well done, we'd do well to look towards the iniquities within our own little world. for example, only in a few instances do women racers receive the same prize money as their male counterparts. and though roundly applauded at the time, no-one can surely see the equality in a three week stage race round france for the men, while the women are thrown a token criterium round the champs elysees to keep them quiet.

this often extends to the average bicycle shop. i guarantee you that i know pretty much every bit as much about bicycles as those behind the counter, yet even i find myself less than comfortable in more than one or two shops; so imagine the intimidation that a less than knowledgeable female cyclist feels in the presence of a know-it-all saturday assistant. thankfully, the exponential growth of the whole cycling milieu has brought proportionately more women into the fold. it's not so much that women demand to be served as equals, more that they deserve to be, both by the cycle stores and manufacturers.

portland, oregon has a larger cycling community than most, a fact that has made it pragmatic to open a cycle store predominantly biased towards the female of the species. and not before time.

gladys bikes

gladys bikes is situated on north east alberta street, more or less midway between the town centre and portland airport. to quote from their website, they are ' a women-focused, full-service bicycle repair and sales shop that specializes in commuting, touring and recreational bicycle sales'. i asked gladys bikes' leah benson if they also have members of the male fraternity through the front door?

"Of course! Generally, bike shops tend to have larger selections of 'men's' equipment and a small section of clothing and gear for women. We attempt to flip that convention on its head and have more products that fit women's bodies. That said, most bike equipment and all service (of course) is gender neutral. We have many male customers that buy bikes here, use the saddle library, get their bikes serviced, etc. We're welcoming of all people of all genders that walk through the door."

as i continued to peruse various parts of the gladys bikes website, it is notable that the range of bicycles stocked seems all but devoid of those that might allow participation in that champs elysees romp. in the process of concentrating on touring, commuting and recreational bicycles, have they previously avoided the more sport oriented end of the market? and is that because they find the average female cyclist is scared off by lightweight carbon, skinny tyres and drop handlebars?

"Great question.
"We started with touring and commuting bikes based on what we heard from people in our initial conversations with a wide swath of women, about what they would want in a shop. We most definitely never heard that female cyclists were 'scared off' by road bikes and I do not believe this to be the case; we simply weren't hearing as much interest in this style of riding-as-sport from the folks we were talking to and from a business perspective it didn't make sense to invest our time, energy and money into products that people weren't interested in purchasing.
  gladys bikes "However as we're now open longer, we are seeing a more diversified customer base walk through the door and hearing that they'd like to see some lighter weight road and 'cross bikes that are built for women's bodies. We took this feedback seriously, as one of the guiding principles of this shop is that we listen to our customer base, and promise evolve and grow based on what we're hearing. Enter Liv Bicycles (giant bicycles' women specific race bike range)."

as you're no doubt bored to death of reading, i've visited portland on two separate occasions, both times having borrowed a bicycle in order to do in rome, etc. in the process of geting lost more than once in downtown portland (principally because i neglected to write addresses somewhere safe and memorable), i came across more cyclists than i'd ever seen in one place at one time, covering, as far as i could note, all strains of oregon residency. though i failed to take notes, i can't say there were more or less of the fairer sex aboard all sorts of bicycles. in the light of this, was the female portion of portland's cycling culture already well-defined when gladys bikes first opened its doors?

"Yes, but in a bajillion different ways. There is no one way that women ride or incorporate bikes into their lives, and this is especially true in this city. Portland's cycling culture is broad and diverse, from Rapha-clad roadies, to cargo biking families, everyday utilitarian commuters, freak bike builders/riders, mountain bikers and everything in between and outside of those definitions. We realize that we'll never speak to every single woman who does every single type of riding."

though my distant past incorporated a period of time functioning as a professional drummist, and thus with a concomitant interest in meandering around music shops, i confess to finding myself every bit as ill at ease in such establishments as in bicycle shops. however, the advent of the drum specific store, such as glasgow's rhythmbase has eased the discomfort. i'm more than happy to pay a visit each time i'm in glasgow, more often than not, purchasing percussive items that i neither need nor can afford.

gladys bikes

bringing to fruition and therefore hopefully to an eager female public, does leah consider that gladys bikes may have fostered an increase in the number of female portlandians aboard all sorts of bicycles? "In our first year of business we've been able to help many (many) women purchase their first-bike-since-I-was-a-kid bike and have provided a meeting space of sorts for women from various parts of the cycling community. I think that we've helped commuters get into racing, racers get into commuting, and so on by fostering connections and relationships between our customers."

another unique aspect of gladys bikes that i've not come across on such a scale elsewhere, is their saddle library. for the nominal sum of 25 dollars, the customer is provided with a library card, providing unlimited access to a wide range of saddles. this allows one week to find out if your chosen item and your posterior were meant for each other. if you then figure that to be the case, that 25 dollar library fee is discounted from the cost of the saddle. it's an innovative idea, and one that surely ought to be in every bike shop in the world. is it a well-used resource?

It's been successful beyond our wildest dreams! At any given time we typically have 25-35 saddles checked out, and 99% of those folks end up walking away from the process with a saddle that fits their body and their bike beautifully. The biggest win has been that it's become a resource that resonates with a wide variety of different riding styles and budgets. At any giving time we could be helping folks find the perfect less than $40 saddle to pair with their frankenbike masterpiece or a $200+ saddle with ti rails for their carbon road bike. As it turns out, having a comfortable saddle is something that's equally important to all riders."

my visits to the city have both been in the early part of the year, meaning that i've not had the pleasure of experiencing cyclocross portland style. though the sport is predominantly a european one, adored in the netherlands and belgium, the americans have their own particular take on it, having created more of a family occasion than that more readily featuring beer, frites and mayo. to encourage this even further amongst women, gladys bikes advertise their cross curious club, offering an easy and gentle way into the way of gloopy mud.

rapha

given the apparent local obsession with cyclocross, have they been overwhelmed with participants in the cross curious club and are they predominantly women? "YES. I had originally said that we would limit the group to 20 participants, but folks just kept on coming at us with the same story of "I've been wanting to try this for years and just didn't know where to start...", and I couldn't possibly turn them away. And so we now have almost 30 folks, enthusiastic to give it a try and committed to participating in at least one race.
"As for the gender divide, it is composed primarily of women with four incredibly awesome men.

does portland at large exhibit any noticeable distinction between male and female cyclists, or was that bridge crossed quite some time ago? "I think that on a day-to-day basis there aren't any obstacles to cycling that are particularly 'male' or 'female' in nature, if that's the question."

i cannot deny that i am largely superficial in nature. though it would be ideal to pretend that this article came about due to industrious research on my part into the iniquities and provision for women in cycling, in truth it was purely due to jude gerace at portland's sugar wheelworks posting a photo on twitter of her gladys bikes t-shirt. the script logo (i'm always a sucker for a nice script typeface) is, to use a well-worn cliche, to die for. who designed it?

"Mauria Betts at Relevant Studios. She's wonderful and incredibly talented. The broad idea was to go for something bold and somewhat feminine without being flowerly or girly. I think she hit the mark quite well."

me too.

it's conceivable that the plaudits and kudos aimed in the direction of gladys bikes would be relatively short-lived. though i can think of a few towns and cities that would benefit from a women-specific bicycle shop, the first one is always likely to benefit specifically from that fact. but once integrated into the locale for a year or so, it risks becoming the same old, same old. so where next for gladys?

"I'm looking forward to working with our 'Cross Club and seeing what kind of life that takes on. I could see that being something that continues to grow year after year here. In general, I'm excited about fostering any opportunity that helps new people explore new types of riding and interested in offering more opportunities in the 'Cross Club vein that attempt to actively recruit new riders into the fold.
"I'm also looking forward to forging a deeper connection with Sweetpea Bicycles, a customer framebuilder who specializes in building bikes that fit women's bodies. We already share a workspace with her fit studio in our shop and our two businesses complement each other really well. We've got lots of great ideas for how to collaborate in getting even more women on bikes that they love to ride. Stay tuned!
"Beyond that, I've got a bajillion ideas. I'd love to organize bike tours of the region, offer more in-depthy classes beyond our basic maintenance workshops, develop a lease-to-own program for bikes similar to the saddle library, expand our internet sales, design Gladys-branded saddles, do a photojournalistic project that examines the different ways that female cyclists look and ride, design the perfect chamois...
"But for now, I'll probably just continue to build out our retail space."

gladys bikes is open tuesday to saturday and afternoons only on a sunday. you can follow them on twitter at twitter.com/gladysbikes

gladys bikes

gladys bikes

saturday 23 august 2014

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colorado calling danny boy, part six...

garden of the gods

Despite what you may think, a rider's life is not glamorous. Actually It's a routine and we are now well into it.

garden of the gods

Breakfast is at 8am and like the previous days, it's in a big conference room with big round tables, however most of the teams tend to bring their own cereals and specialty food to supplement the fare that we are served each day. These are world stars who deserve the very best of nutrition. If it wasn't for healthy riders, this show would not be happening.

Dinner is much the same, and all the teams mix with one another and amble from one silver canteen to another in an effort to find something edible.

hotel broadmoor

This is a circus, and while the public gape in awe at the riders, they are in reality, just bit players. They and race officials are staying at a variety of hotels; ours is called Hotel Elegante.  It is far better than the team experience in many places in Europe, and it's a big complex positioned next to an expressway a little way out of town. It serves a purpose, but tongue in cheek I went over to the fabulous Broadmoore hotel complex where some are staying and I did rather wish we were staying here.

feed station

We rode to the start along a busy road and straight to the sign in. Spirits were high, for we were now at a lower elevation and it's a short 113 km stage. But it's a very beautiful one, up and into the Garden of the Gods, a protected park dotted with brown limestone outcrops. I asked Rich if he enjoyed the view, but he told me that the only view that he had all day was the wheel directly in front.

He missed an incredible landscape.

The break went very early. We missed it and twelve riders quickly gained three minutes on the peleton. In the break was Jens Voigt. Descending from the Garden of Gods, Jens broke free with a lap and a half to go, powered by the feed station on his own without taking a bidon, head down up the climb and stayed away in typical fashion. Panic grew in the ranks of Cannondale - who have done nothing in this race - and they gradually reeled in Jens to put their man Viviani into a position to sprint for the line.

And much to the chagrin of the crowd and the highly enthusiastic course commentators, they caught the magnificent 42 year old German just metres from the line. After 2:28:52 Elia Viviana took the stage. Our young rider Tom Moses did well to finish in the bunch, taking a deserved 23rd.

Today we head back into the mountains. It's a long stage of 168 kms from Woodland Park just outside Colorado Springs, to Breckenridge. After 30 kms the road rises up to Hoosier Pass, at an altitude of 11,539 feet, the highest point of the race. There is a desire within the team to try to get into the break.

Bon Courage is all that I can say.

© Charlie Pearch 2014.

friday profile

friday 22 august 2014

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the road headed west. leon mccarron. summersdale press paperback 348pp illus. £9.99

the road headed west by leon mccarron

in a recent episode of the big bang theory, sheldon's girlfriend, amy farrah fowler undermined his joy of watching indiana jones by pointing out that the principal character in the movie (indeed, the entire series) is somewhat irrelevant. no matter which way you view the storyline, each and every scene in the movie would have transpired without the intervention of the character played by harrison ford.

aside from conceiving of the brain that had the intellect to notice this and incorporate it in the script, it is in fact perfectly true. knowledge of this, as was the case for sheldon and his cohorts in the big bang theory, means that none of us will ever watch the movie in the same light ever again. conversely, given that it is entirely fictional, learning of this now glaring fault (if i may be so bold as to characterise it in this manner) does not stop it form being around one and a half hours of entertainment.

it's a situation that bares consideration when reading the tales of an intrepid explorer aboard a bicycle, traversing either the road less travelled (with apologies to daniel pasley), or coursing over paths altogether unknown. except, in such cases, the situation is almost reversed; though the bicycle in most cases is scarcely referred to as a major facilitator of all that is written, in point of fact, pretty much every cycle touring trip could not take place without the incorporation of a velocipede.

not wishing to upset this particular applecart, leon mccarron has continued the trend by making reference to his bicycle mostly as mere asides. it is the vehicle that allowed him to cycle coast to coast (east to west) across north america. working as an intern with a documentary production company in new york city for six months, leon mccarron had opted to follow this period by cycling to oregon's pacific coast, essentially solo, but as is often the case with lengthy cycling journeys, accompanied for portions of his trip by others he met along the way. an escape from the drudgery that is the nine to five.

an argument surely could be made for offering up a considered answer of so what?. surely enough bicycle trips have been made by any number of people, to render one more somewhat surplus to requirements? i doubt very much that readers of the genre avidly turn each page, determined to discover which groupset/rack/tyres/saddle was used by our intrepid hero/heroine. but, surely the ultimate point of such travelogues is not only to entertain, but to provide a personal insight into non-motorised or organised travel across a country with which we either figured we were well-acquainted, or one to which we have no insight whatsoever?

so far, i have visited kansas city, new york city, portland (twice) and sacramento, each time arriving by aeroplane at the nearest practical airport. though sacramento and portland have been traversed (as opposed to explored) by bicycle, i can tell you very little about the country that borders the opposite side of the ocean splattering islay's shores. the kernel of books such as the road headed west is not just the cycling and travel, but the manner in which the trip and the country are described.

it would surely be stating the obvious to make mention that the united states of america is a rather large country. though the book is prefaced by a hand-drawn map of the country, i'd be loathe to dissect just how many states mccarron pedalled through, including a brief sortie into neighbouring canada. if there is a single facet to be gleaned from the book's 52 chapters, it's that generosity and human spirit are pretty much intact from east to west, notwithstanding mccarron's life threatening experience in iowa, one that almost quite literally stopped him dead in his tracks.

"It seemed a terrible shame to meet my end in Iowa... My current predicament. then - attempting to escape through cornfields from a gun-toting, alcohol soaked rancher - was not something I expected"

it's an almost over-worn tactic; beginning a book with a happenstance that might appear to be the end, one that does not, in fact, form any part of the initial foray of chapter one. recent cyclists' biographies of the pelotonese have resorted to similar tactics, for what reason i know not. in this case i assume it's to grab the prospective reader's attention, for the above words appear as part of the prologue, before even one of those 52 chapters have begun. to be honest, in this case, it's an unnecessary tactic. secondly, i would normally spare no vitriol on reading any sentence that begins "The first thing I noticed about (Wyoming)". the phrase is one of many cliches that find their way into lazy writing, except in this case it is very much the exception, rather why i noticed it in the first place.

mccarron is an excellent observer; there must be many cyclists who have ridden through any number of north american states, yet displayed minimal propensity to accurate reportage. his view of the americana described is not judgmental, not arrogant but always agreeably opinionated. i do not possess his ceaseless desire for adventure, but as with most armchair explorers, i'm more than happy to let him deal with the awkward bits while savouring all the good stuff, recreating each subsequent landscape and vista with the aid of his observational and descriptive skills.

i doubt it's letting any cats out of bags to confirm that mccarron did indeed savour wetting his tired feet in the pacific ocean several months after doing likewise in the atlantic. had the story ended at that point, i would have closed the book's cover with satisfaction. i'm not too sure that there was need to augment the faux ending with a bike ride down america's pacific coast and into mexico. this undoubtedly took place, but to me seemed an unnecessary addendum to an already good story.

i'm possibly suffering from paragraph overload, having been reading and reviewing a constant stream of books since the latter stages of the giro d'italia in may. however, a physical endearment of this particular volume is the brevity of each chapter. i made mention above that there were a total of 52 between page one and page 348, but i set great store in an author who has the reader's best interests at heart by keeping each chapter to a few pages in length. not only does it ease the apportioning of reading time, but psychologically makes a long story seem less demanding. if only more authors would take this into consideration.

though a bicycle is the important thread that strings the entire edifice together, it is rarely explicit in print. mccarron's story is front and foremost, just as it should be, and it's a thoroughly enjoyable one at that. america might appear to be a daunting country for some, and there's no doubt, in some cases, that such is perfectly true. but like many extensive locations, there is a great deal of good to be found in the oddest of places.

of course, parts of iowa might be the exception that proves the rule.

friday 22 august 2014

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evans cycles

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cycling a long way for money

you may recall a recent feature on the post regarding the jog2gib long distance bike ride being undertaken by round the world cyclist mark beaumont and his accomplice donny macdonald. this is a ride from john o'groats on the northernmost tip of scotland, continuing well past the usual destination of lands end, instead heading to gibraltar at the southern tip of spain. the two gentlemen, along with other riders and support crew are pedalling this far to raise funds for glasgow's yorkhill children's hospital, great ormond street hospital and gibraltar's rainbow ward in st bernard's hospital.

as previously noted, they propose to raise money not only to facilitate the ride itself, but for the three above noted children's hospitals. to accomplish this, one part will be raised through corporate sponsorship, the other by means of crowdfunding. some of the corporates have already weighed in, including the single malt distillery on arran (evening, james), but as of tomorrow, the crowdfunding opens for business to which us mere mortals can contribute.

as is the case with the crowdfunding principle in general, there are rewards available proportionate to the amount pledged. since this money is to help kids who potentially might never experience the joys of cycling in their own backyard, let alone several thousand kilometres, it might be a nice idea to settle for a campagnolo veloce rear mech instead of the carbon record version you really want, and pledge the difference to this excellent cause.

go on, you know you want to.

jog2gib crowdfunding

thursday 21 august 2014

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colorado calling danny boy, part five...

rapha condor jlt

Hugh Carthy! What a ride. The facts: Hugh crossed the line 12 minutes and 58 seconds behind stage winner and new race leader Tejay Vangarderen. This is Tejay's manor, this is his country and he's a World Tour rider. Hugh is 20 years old and just earned his spurs on the Continental Divide. I saw it with my own eyes, watching him descend from 11,312 feet crouched low like he was a plane coming into land and I saw him cross the line. And despite a shattered look, managed a broad smile when he saw me by the barrier. I'm dead proud.

hugh

To put Hugh's effort into perspective, he finished just a minute behind Jensie; yes folks, THE Jens Voigt! And now he moves up from 7th to 4th in the young rider classification.

The young French star, Clement Chevrier remains in the Blue jersey and appears to have an unassailable lead. I spent some time with him this morning over breakfast, and if he progresses, I think you are going to like him. Hats off to the Bissell Development Team as they hold the top three places in this competition. Hugh now has his work cut out to displace one of them on the podium.

hugh

Today's (Wednesday) stage was all about a mountain, a darned big mountain which is climbed twice, once from each side. The road, CO 50 is a wide three lane road with perfect grey tarmac and it's relatively straight so must make for a wonderful descent. But both climbs are loooong and without wishing to be a total bore on the subject, 11,312 feet in real money is 3,500 metres. Up here oxygen levels are reduced by 33%.

All six riders made it back. Sensibly a large grupetto was formed and it crossed the line 27 minutes and 53 seconds behind Tejay, well within the plus 14% cut off point. All our lads were in there, and it was great to see them back safe. I bought six little cloth patches that I will give them tomorrow over breakfast. All crossed the Continental Divide today and all richly deserve this small token.

It's now a long transfer, but as I type, I am constantly distracted by some amazing landscapes as we head towards Colorado Springs. team mechanic This is a seriously stunning state, the best that I have ever been to.

So yesterday I mentioned the soigneurs, and today a quick word about the mechanics, led by James. The bikes this morning were gleaming, new bottom bracket bearings had been put in, chains cleaned and oiled, and new bar tape applied. They, like the soigneurs, are unsung heroes in my mind. An integral part of a fabulous team.

As we near Colorado Springs my ears have popped, the altitude is a lower 6,000 feet.  I am sure this evening that John and Tom will cook up a plan. I have a feeling that we will see a bit more of the Men in Black over the forthcoming days.

 

With all best wishes to you back home.

© Charlie Pearch 2014.

continental divide

thursday 21 august 2014

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urbane urbanity

urban and city riding

the emphasis is currently leaning towards so-called urban riding, and not entirely without foundation. in 1900, around 13% of the world's population lived in what would now, and possibly then, be described as urban. pop forward by a century and in the year 2000, that figure had increased to 47%, reaching the magical 50% in 2007, when 3.3 billion folks assumed the mantle of urban dweller. scarily, that number is forecast to reach 4 billion, or 60% by 2030 and 20 years later urban developments will have swallowed (in a manner of speaking), 70% of the global population.

depending on your point of view, mode of employment or current domicile, this is either a challenging situation, or one that scares the heebie jeebies out of you. it's certainly something i'd consider a daunting prospect.

urban and city riding

however, while the spotlight remains upon such city dwellers, encompassing the emergence of the megacity (ten million population), metacity (over 20 million) and the very scary megacity region with an aggregate population of over 80 million, it seems scant regard is being paid to those in more remote rural areas. this is not necessarily an iniquitous situation, for even the population of islay has apparently dropped by some 200 people since i moved here over twenty years ago.

i'm pretty sure that's simply a coincidence and nothing to do with my unsociable personality.

with a tabled increase in rail fares announced only a day or so ago, there's no doubt that surviving as an urban dweller has perhaps as many, though different, pressures as exist in the hinterlands. though the average rail season ticket now seems more like a cash investment in network rail shares, there is at least an all but guaranteed frequency of trains to take the hapless individual to and from work over a wide period of time. compare that with a not inexpensive and infrequent bus service that ends at 6pm each day, with no service at all on sundays, and, from a transportational point of view at least, the rural idyll begins to fade.

however, in asnwer to all who have felt the need to point this out, the old adage "but look where i live" is still the best answer i've got. one has to be a tad pragmatic, for with a population on islay fo marginally over 3,000, there is a somewhat limited return on investment for both government and the local regional council. argyll and bute has not only a relatively sparsely populated area to serve, but also the longest coastline and largest number of islands of any scottish council. that's not a cheap toy to play with.

urban and city riding

it does, however, mean that those of us happy to live in relative estrangement from an overpopulated society have a tendency towards self-sufficiency. if the ferry is cancelled because of bad weather, and no newspapers, bread or milk arrive for a few days in the winter months, c'est la vie. and for those of us without a motor car in the family, with things to accomplish outside of the bus timetable, not only is the bicycle something of a very inexpensive saviour, it can be the oft-quoted path to freedom.

another joy of remaining outside of the megacity is the annual appearance of the lagavulin islay jazz festival which takes place in the middle of next month. as i have paid lip service to in previous years, i am most fortunate to have been asked to demonstrate my minimal percussive skills since year one. this year is no exception. however, it is slightly different, in that my co-conspirators all live in a village situated ten miles away. logistically, it makes more than just a little sense that we rehearse in the place of the majority. a car journey isn't really an option (i don't have one) and the bus service on a saturday afternoon doesn't quite match our needs.

so, bicycle it is/was then, but rather than spend the afternoon percussing while dressed in bibshorts and sportwool, surely the preferred option would be normal clothing, a desire accommodated perfectly by the taurus corinto. lugged italian steel with 32c comfy tyres, a brooks b66 sprung saddle, fully enclosed chain, rack, dynamo lighting, sturmey three-speed, rod brakes and swept-back handlebars fit the bill marvellously. the archetypal city bike, now that you come to mention it; except this isn't the city.

urban and city riding

but does that mean that there ought to be something closer to a landrover for the rural percussionist?

probably not, as it happens. all this talk of urbanity (if you see what i mean) and cities of more than 20 million is entirely relative. if we think back to the 1900s and a mere 13% living in cities, rather obviously, numbers were of an entirely lower order. the fact that the village in which i live is home to around 1,000 people and the village to which i cycled of similar numbers could reasonably be seen as the hebridean version of urban. it's simply the bits in between that are rural. i cannot hide the fact, however, that something a bit lower than a sturmey three-speed's first gear into a rising headwind, might not necessarily be on the wishlist of a commuter in hackney. couple that with simply nowhere to shelter when clobbered by an atlantic squall and yes, i think i know the difference between rural and urban.

however, all that is based on perception and not just a soupcon of modernity. mrs washingmachinepost's grandfather rode the selfsame roads in the 1930s on an arguably less well-equipped bicycle without so much as a hint of complaint. and though he was probably a smidgeon hardier than yours truly, i figure it's something of which i am perfectly capable of emulating on a regular basis. there really is no need to dress like an estranged member of the peloton to ride your bike, and no demonstrable need to acquire more than 21 gears to make it from a to b, whether you live on the atlantic or the approaches to richomnd park.

i might be in the middle of the atlantic, but i'm just as velocipedinally urban as the next person.

taurus corinto courtesy of pronto gara

thursday 21 august 2014

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pronto gara ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

colorado calling danny boy, part four...

rapha condor jlt in colorado

The mood over breakfast was quiet. Kristian and Brigga were down early. Graham Briggs is a hugely respected and loved member of the team; what happened yesterday hurts. The show goes on, and as it does I reflect on the behind the scenes part of this team.

kebler pass

The soigneurs run around like flies for the riders' every demand. There's a hierarchy of course; they will all die for Kristian, but like life, the young new riders need to earn the respect of those that go back and forth for you. These guys are up early and late to bed. Without them, the team would simply not function.

So The good people of Aspen got a taste of Johns driving skills early on. He was at the back when the radio crackled, 'Rapha to the front.' He's an amazingly skilled driver, fast and furious and somehow manages to squeeze a six foot wide car through a five foot gap. A JLT client sitting in the front seat visibly went white. Hugh had punctured in the neutral zone.

Once fixed, off they charged down the valley away from Aspen. The pace was fast, but controlled. Here's one to watch for and yet another sign of the resurgence of French Cycling perhaps. A 22 year old kid on the Bissel Development Team by the name of Clement Chevrier grabbed the Blue jersey on day one. Today following a comfort break, he quickly got back in the cars which were doing 70 miles an hour off McClure summit. This kid sat on the car in front of John a mere couple of inches from its rear bumper. The exuberance of youth. Clement has confidence, and remains in the blue jersey.

kebler pass

So as the boys turned left up towards Kebler Pass, which is at 3,000 meters (I know because I was standing there), the heavens opened. When that happens in America it's just bigger: deep dark sky and lightning bolts, hail bouncing off my helmet as we waited. Down below they were on a hard packed dirt road, which is actually easy to ride on in the dry. A minute ahead of the bunch another 22 year old on the Hincapie Development Team was making a name for himself. Robin Carpenter clad in grey, appeared out of the tarmac and was over the KOM and never caught. Behind him in a small bunch sat Rich Handley. He didn't hear me shouting at him high up on the bank. Hugh was not far behind.

Dan Whitehouse was the last rider over Kebler, and I have to admit shame when standing there in full team kit, surrounded by generous Americans trying to keep me warm. I didn't enjoy the chants of 'cheat, cheat as Dan hung onto the car mirror. Three minutes later Dan was in the ambulance suffering from the cold. No sympathies here my friend. Sorry!

crested butte

After the Voiture Balai had passed, I took off after the convoy, working through the cars myself. Yes it was cold, horrible in fact, but surely you just work harder? On the descent there is a second section of dirt, now turned into a slippery light brown gloopy substance which got everywhere. On the descent it was tricky, made for Nibali, but the commissaires in their wisdom had stopped the race: on the tarmac at the end of the dirt section, on account of safety! This allowed others to join the lead group, a rather chaotic scene. But then they let Robin go with a 45 second lead which was just enough. George Hincapie was buying champagne in the bar at The Lodge last night.

Deserved.

So Rich is 3.25 back on GC, and Hugh, 5.21 adrift, moves up to 7th in the blue jersey category, 4.52 behind the young Frenchman. The mood is good and we are hopeful that things will improve from here. It's now grey here and has been raining overnight. Today is an exceptionally beautiful stage over Monarch Pass (11,327 feet) and then onto a mountain finish at Monarch Mountain. After this stage the team will know what lies ahead and what they can realistically aim for.

I met Barry Huckstep, Crested Butte's young mayor last night. He was so grateful that we came all this way. He was welcoming and genuine, with a warm handshake. I felt mighty proud to be British. This is truly a great spot.

© Charlie Pearch 2014.

wednesday 20 august 2014

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tubular bells (and whistles)

shaped tubing

i try my very best to avoid plagiarism, and to the best of my knowledge, i have never been guilty of such a crime in these black and yellow pixels. if i have found it prudent or necessary to piggy-back on the words or imagery of a third party, i'm pretty sure i've always credited my source. that's the way it's supposed to work, and i rather hope i have fulfilled all the strictures.

in this particular case, i make reference to an excellent article in the latest issue of cyclist magazine, a publication that has not only the contacts, but the wherewithal to ask questions of experts that i find are outside my immediate circle or jurisdiction. the article in question is by rupert paul and entitled 'Round tubes vs aero tubes', answering a question i have often silently voiced on many a singular occasion and an article that now disparages the answer i have usually provided, even if only to myself.

if you've come in contact with any of the carbon frames on offer from pretty much every current manufacturer, it will be hard to avoid the fact that few, if any of the composite tubes adhere to any degree of roundness. whereas, looking down at the top tube of my chris king cielo will result in a black, shiny round steel tube looking back, more often than not, its carbon peer group offers a tapered, flat surface on which it is often possible to sit a takeaway cup of coffee (yes, i did check).

that bothers me.

shaped tubing

and it bothers me because, based entirely on no known engineering principles, i figured that the shaping of the various tubes that make up the contemporary double-diamond, had become that way simply because they could. mr paul's well-researched article undermines my somewhat flawed argument that the basis of such sculpting is hardly the result of carefully tuned aerodynamics, but one adhering more to artistic pretensions. it turns out that, instead of the frame designer taking matters into his/her own hands by applying one or two swoops and planes on a personal whim, a combination of wind-tunnel testing and computational fluid dynamics pretty much defines the final outcome.

however, while the evidence is clear for all to see, defining me as the very fellow who should neither be asked such questions in the first place, nor be allowed out on his own to answer them, i still have a sneaking suspicion that aesthetics play a greater part than has been admitted. mind you, the specifics as supplied by the folks at cervelo, specialized or a professor of experimental aerodynamics cannot legitimitely be denied, especially by someone daft enough to go out in 35mph + winds.

shaped tubing

however, contrary to the philosophy imparted by the majority of the world's bicycle research and development departments, bicycles are not necessarily always about speed. granted, while banging my head off an hebridean headwind on a sunday morning, a few degrees less wind resistance would be most appreciated, but cycling is about so much more than crossing the finishing line in first place. my weekend riding schedule is rarely constrained by time, at least not any situation that is measured in seconds or fractions thereof.

however, now that the bulk of the professional peloton is riding carbon frames fashioned from expensive molds in taiwan, the option of creating made to measure items for them, while offering the less athletically inclined something more appropriate for their needs, has pretty much disappeared into the broom wagon. if the difference between my riding a colnago v1-r to debbie's on a sunday morning as opposed to my round(er) tubed colnago master can be measured by anything other than a calendar, do i really care that much?

shaped tubing

do not mistake me, i am a great fan of the continued development of the modern-day bicycle, and unlike the uci, i have no real wish to see it stop anytime soon. but just a bit like the differences between a ford focus and a mclaren formula one car, i don't think comparison is a valid option. just because pierre roland favours the v1-r to compete in the tour de france doesn't necessarily translate as a situation or need that ought concern the rest of us. even if we're aiming for some form of gold or silver award in any given sportive.

however, should you have inclinations above your station (so to speak), it's an article worth reading. if nothing else, like me, you'll have the very answers either to confirm or deny whichever stance you are prone to adopting.

now, about the independence referendum...

wednesday 20 august 2014

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showers pass ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

colorado calling danny boy, part three...

rapha condor jlt in colorado

I saw Elliot, Rich, Hugh, and Mike come back to the team cars, all looked as though they had just come off the western front. None of them spoke. They were ashen. Their black overworn, ageing kit now nearly see-through and with holes, was adorned with white streaks of sweat. Snot mixed with dried sweat ran down their faces. In a word, they looked awful.

us pro tour challenge

Word reached us that Magus B - who I have much respect for - was talking up Graham's chances of winning the sprint. Sadly I watched Graham at first hand start to go backwards on the first climb. Once the elastic broke he fell back into the team cars. When we passed him, his shirt was open, his chain around his neck was swaying back and forth and his sweat-ridden face told us immediately that he would not survive. Not long after, Tom fell back the same way, and he would go back to join Graham. Frantic words ensued between the two Directeurs Sportifs, Tom asking John for guidance, when they could get reception on dodgy radios. Tom was told to stick with them.

A breakaway went early and seemed to be holding about a 90 second lead, with Cannondale on the front driving the peleton, keeping them in check. In the meantime all we cared about was the safety of our lads, becoming worried when we saw some falling back through the peleton. We knew they were suffering. They couldn't breathe It's that simple.

On the last lap on the run-in, the crackling voice over the radio said that rider 31 had made a break. It had to be Herr Voigt and sure enough he helped to explode the peleton. We passed our boys on the last climb; they would all survive the day, Tom just made the cut nearly twelve minutes adrift. Sadly, Graham did not, and he is now looking to try to get an earlier flight home.

This sport is so hard.

© Charlie Pearch 2014.

tuesday 19 august 2014

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the loyal lieutenant; my story. george hincapie and craig hummer. harper sport hardback 300pp illus. £20

the loyal lieutenant: george hincapie

my day to day travails concern what used to be referred to as desktop publishing, a particular vocation enabled by the fine folks at aldus in the early 1980s, having brought to market their groundbreaking pagemaker programme for the fledgling apple macintosh computer. nowadays i believe the same occupation is more commonly known as page layout, though that might just be me. the software too, has moved onwards, with pagemaker having now gone to the great binary heaven in the sky, replaced by the ubiquitous indesign from aldus' successors adobe.

it's a job i rather enjoy, something that can be noted from the enthusiasm with which i undertake extra-curricular research to advance my abilities beyond the specific demands of my job. these have brought me into contact with both photoshop and illustrator, both from the previously noted adobe. rather than simply stick a few words and pictures on a page, i have looked into the variations and suitability of different typefaces, both serif and sans-serif, whether they offer italics, small caps, ligatures, alternatives, to the tracking and kerning and default leading features.

hopefully it is only me who fusses over such idiosyncracies, for i generally believe that only the message should leave an imprint; the messenger ought to remain transparent. it is commonly known within typographic circles, that line length has great bearing upon legibility. too long and the reader's eye falls to the line below; too short, and reading becomes harder than it need be. additionally, in an ideal world, as in these black and yellow pixels, all type would be set justified left and ragged right, but due to space considerations, our local newspaper fully justifies all text. not ideal, but needs must.

however, i must temper some of my following conclusions in the light of this coming from one who completely eschews the use of uppercase letters. (just before anyone gets in there first).

whoever undertook to mastermind the typesetting of george hincapie's book the loyal lieutenant is clearly either wholly unaware of these determined conventions, or just like david carson in his much celebrated, but now defunct magazine raygun, has chosen to ignore them altogether.

this should be a book review concerning just how george hincapie managed to justify use of banned substances and practices during his professional cycling career. it ought also to shed light on quite why anyone would ask the pariah of the sport (lance armstrong) to write the foreword for said volume. but sadly, that is not the case.

the loyal lieutenant: george hincapie

i confess to having admired big george during his career, probably because he was not only unafraid of paris-roubaix, but actively engaged in trying to win the darned race on more than one occasion. my complete naivety in the ways of blood doping and subsequent acceptance at face value even of victories that seemed too good to be true, does me no favours now. in common with many other fans of the beautiful sport, i now feel like an embarrassed fool, less than well disposed towards those who now seem intent on cashing in on not only our foolishness, but a subsequent kiss and tell culture. for them it must seem like a win/win situation.

however, it is not those matters that have prevented my offering you an insight into big george's testimony, but the dreadful layout of the book's chapters. i have valiantly attempted to read the loyal lieutenant on three separate occasions, finally admitting defeat before making it even as far as chapter three. aside from being less than impressed that any book has need of incorporating annoyingly frequent quotes from friends, colleagues and family, separating these from george's own words, (sic) preceded by the person's name set inrosewood typeface, in uppercase and in grey is simply more than my patience could absorb (see accompanying page illustration above). this practice continues throughout the book, culminating in an ignominious page featuring three such quotes and not a single word from big george.

this could, of course, be simply a personal idiosyncracy, brought on by a form of typographical arrogance on my part. either way, i offer my apologies to messrs hincapie and hummer, for i seriously doubt they had much say in the matter. harper collins, however, really ought to take a reality check.

tuesday 19 august 2014

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synaptic cycles ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

portland design works ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

powered by hippo technology

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tell them we sent you

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.

debbie's cafe

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.

welcometogreatcoffee.co.uk

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as always, if you have any comments, please feel free to e-mail and thanks for reading.

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book reviews

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