therapeutic use exemption

the rules

i have, once again, received some shiny new cycling apparel for review purposes and, as is my wont, i dressed myself from head to toe in such finery, for the purpose of being sartorially impressive on the easter sunday bike ride. do not, however, confuse this with any form of narcissism, for in order to direct attention away from my diminishing speed, the drowning man will grasp at any straw or crumb thrown in his (my) direction.

though sunday's temperature did not directly commend those knees to ride al fresco, since the shiny cycling kit contained not only bibshorts, but legwarmers, the perfect match between athleticism and a more thermal mode of dress was mine to take advantage of. thankfully, the matching pair of socks featured a most impressive coloured pattern, which was just as well, due to the incredible tightness of being that formed the ankles of the leg warmers. the option of wearing the socks on the outside was, to be perfectly honest, the only one available.

but does that transgress the rules? i confess that in my perusal of the 95 as listed by velominati, i could find nothing that specifically argues against such a potential faux-pas, but somehow, i think it a tad unnatural to wear socks outside either leg warmers or bibtights. it's the sort of dilemma that, as one of elderly years, i'm inclined to shrug off as a minor doubt or irritation. but what of the cycling newbie, the sort of chap or chapess who has jet to come to terms with both clipless pedals and the fact that a pair of cycle shorts features not only bib straps, but an internal pad that reminds them of the years spent in nappies.

so, in order to be of as much assistance as i can, i propose to elucidate on five of velominati's rules that you can safely ignore, without the sunday peloton either sending you to coventry, or dropping you on the first climb of the day.

rule#7 dictates that "Tan lines should be cultivated and kept razor sharp.". there may well be countries in the world where observing this particular rule can be exercised with ease. at the risk of irritating visitscotland, i fear that scotland is not one of them. nor, indeed, do i think it likely that england, wales and ireland will find themselves included. in fact, it's quite probable that the majority of northern european countries will find themselves on the outside looking in. therefore, i believe rule#7 can be discounted, primarily on the basis of irrelevance to the constitution.

rule#11 enforces the diktat that "Family does not come first. The bike does." while conversing in the pub or coffee shop with members of the same sex, this may well be a stance that theoretically offers more power to your elbow, but on the basis of maintaining cordial marital relations, i'd advise that you merely think rule#7 to be the case, but, at the risk of serious repercussions, never attempt to implement its tendentious validity.

rule#17 purports that "Team kit is for members of the team.", a stricture that is probably above argument. but at the risk of allying the peloton with that of the average soccer fan, why should it be solely the preserve of the latter to visually demonstrate their affinity with a particular team, yet denied to the honed athlete? personally i see no real need to advertise often obscure european products to innocent bystanders of the parish, but it seems a tad iniquitous to chastise the newbie cyclist, purely on the basis that they arrived dressed in a polti jersey, blissfully unaware of its social unacceptability. and who could object to a mapei kit?

rule#29 rather impinges on the necessities dictated by modern society. " No European Posterior Man-Satchels", by which the keepers of the cog refer to saddle-bags, in my considered opinion, places too much strain on those three rear pockets. any cyclist worth their salt will carry at least one spare inner-tube, a multi-tool and a couple of tyre levers. stick those in the jersey pockets, and space allowed for coffee money, keys, smartphone and other modern accoutrements is seriously minimised. far better, i think to employ a small saddle pouch or tool-wrap, than to shoogle too much when climbing. just ensure that tyre levers and inner-tube are not conspicuous by their absence. (it's also worth considering ignorance of rule#31 in the same breath)

and lastly, my benevolence towards the uninitiated ends with the temeritous advice to hold rule#34 as just a tad suspect. "Mountain bike shoes and pedals have their place." this rule continues on a mountain bike", but given the modern-day predilection for the pelotonese to have at least one cyclocross bicycle secreted about the bike-shed, it seems particularly pragmatic to conjoin one's footwear requirements. it surely risk comparison with imelda marcos to have a cupboard full of shoes that alternate between two and three-point cleat fixings? and relegation of this rule completely obviates the likelihood of stepping out of a sunday morning to realise that one's footwear simply doesn't match the pedals on the bike du jour. (i seriously refute the accusation that this has happened to yours truly on more than one occasion).

of course, if the velominati post ride rule testing finds you guilty of transgressing any of the above, i will deny ever having had this conversation.

the rules

monday 02 april 2018

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a cyclist's guide to the mountains

peter cossins mountain guide

when i was a small boy, still at primary school, i already had my future career path mapped out. this, i had decided, would take the form of a cement lorry driver, purely on the basis that i had been given a small matchbox toy of a blue-circle cement truck. thus, there was no mileage (if you'll pardon the pun) in my acquiescing to pilot any other type of lorry, for without doubt, there's no way anything else could favourably compare with a flatbed truck replete with neat and orderly cement bags arranged across the back.

as life has turned out, not only do i not own a motor car, but i seriously doubt i could clamber convincingly into the cab of a transit van, let alone a cement lorry.

peter cossins mountain guide

but it could have been a lot worse, for had my predilection for writing been brought to my attention a lot earlier than it was, there's a real danger i could have become a writer. and not merely a writer, but a travel writer. i mention the latter because i am what i believe may be accurately described as a homebody, one who bears a reticence to travel further from the front door than can be comfortably managed on a bicycle. yes, i have been a guest of rapha travel in provence, and sven thiele of hot chillee fame was kind enough to allow me the luxury of accompanying him from london to paris last summer. but in the last four or five years, that's pretty much been the total of my travel experience. you'd scarcely call that a career.

peter cossins mountain guide

i could, however, provide an in-depth guide to the whys and wherefores of travelling on the calmac ferries to islay. and if you care to explore the links to your left, you'll discover that i have made a stab at providing comprehensive details on riding your bicycles on islay. heck, even as a non-drinker, i could probably regale you with endless insights as to the nooks and crannies of the island's distilleries. if you doubt the veracity of that last statement, let me advise you that i can even find the malt mill in laphroaig distillery, without asking for directions.

but as a travel writer, i fear i would be classed as something of a failure.

peter cossins mountain guide

peter cossins, on the other hand, is pretty darned good at it. though he is perhaps best known for being the author of butcher, blacksmith, acrobat, sweep, a book about the five finest one-day classics, one that recounts the history of alpe d'huez, ultimate etapes and a manual on how to win a bike race, the more astute amongst you will surely be quizzing yourselves as to how any of the above could be classified as travel books? but here is where i may have been a trifle obscure on purpose.

mr cossins has recently posted a request for crowdfunding as a means of bringing us a series of guide books to the mountains, the first of which concernes those that surround his home in the pyrenees.

peter cossins mountain guide

"Drawing on my own experience of 30 years and more of riding and reporting in the high mountains, each book will provide the information vital to a successful expedition. It will not only provide details on more than 200 passes in each range, but also practical information such as the location of cafés, bike shops and taps/springs where riders can top up on eau potable. Armed with the guide, the rider will only need to worry about how to get to the mountains and where to stay once there. A Cyclist's Guide to the Mountains will take care of everything else."

peter cossins mountain guide

assuming the crowdfunding proves successful, and i know you won't let him down on that score, once the pyrenees have been successfully despatched (so to speak), peter will move onto the north and south french alps, the swiss alps, german, austrian and italian alps and not forgetting the dolomites. i don't dispute the accusation that i am unlikely to be the first to pop into peter's pyrenean home for coffee and a chat, as i wend my way across the snow-capped peaks, but i'm pretty sure that life as a an armchair explorer is a real thing. and if it isn't i may be about to make it so.

for the benefit of the army of cyclists who think nothing of throwing their bikes in the back of an estate car and nipping across the channel to emulate hannibal on two wheels, i have kindly linked to the unbound crowdfunding page below. don't thank me, thank peter.

unbound crowdfunding

sunday 01 april 2018

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q36.5 hybrid que l/s jersey, s/s baselayer, wolf bibshorts & merino socks


it will come as no real surprise that i am a long-time subscriber to america's modern drummer magazine, though i confess that some recent issues have given me cause to occasionally reconsider my loyalty. though my principal favour when it comes to percussive prowess is for the more jazz inflected offerings, the current crop of editors demonstrates a closer affinity with heavier hitters. i cannot claim to have extensive knowledge of the american music scene; i well know of the more prominent jazz practitioners, but as to those occupying the more obscure nooks and crannies of americana, i am to be found wanting.


part of me would like to put my hand up and proclaim that "i must do better', but in point of fact, that is probably very far from the truth. the printed word, even when accompanied by colour imagery, is scarcely the finest medium for transmitting hi-fidelity audio, so in truth, unless i go exploring itunes, i remain unaware of the musical output of many of modern drummer's interviewees. what often stops me investigating further, is frequently the name of the band which gainfully employs this month's headliner. groups such as 'of a place to bury strangers', 'goatwhore', and 'prophets of rage' are not the sort of listings i'd prefer to search through on my ipod. whatever happened to cutesy names such as 'the fortunes', 'gerry and the pacemakers' and 'the 1910 fruitgum company'?


such an oddity (as i see it), seems to have infiltrated the world of cycling apparel, spearheaded by italy's q36.5. the definition of such an obscure apellation is quantified as quaerere, latin for research, while the digits refer to the core temperature of a healthy body. it is hard to deny, however, that, if nothing else, spying this applied to a jersey sleeve ought to foster intensive post ride conversation. and maybe that's what they had in mind all along.

i consider myself to be reasonably well informed in the matters of the velocipede, but i'd be fibbing if i gave the impression that i was well acquainted with the q36.5 catalogue. on the basis of this review, that has been my misfortune, for each and every garment delivered direct from italy performed in excess of any expectations i might have had when clambering onto the saddle. in common with probably every cycling apparel purveyor in the world, some of their marketing claims might be on the extravagant side, but ultimately, there's no denying the quality of their products.


though probably losing something in translation, the 'absolutely equipment' slogan printed on the boxes is a tad odd to english speaking eyes (if you see what i mean?), accompanied by ' an extreme vision of the future of competitive cycling clothing', but in truth, translations aside, they've probably hit the nail pretty much square on the head.

the intriguingly knitted short sleeve baselayer is probably as close as it gets to being not there at all, or at least that's what it feels like under the hybrid jersey. constructed pretty much in one-piece on a karl mayer seamless knitting machine, cleverly, even the sleeves form part of this one piece build, seamlessly forming one-piece with the torso. the only sign of any joining is a couple of stitches at the shoulders. the hexagonal patterned frontispiece continues across the rear, where its constitution changes into an open mesh to aid breathability. if a tangible definition of the absolutely equipment tagline were needed, this could be it.


the bibshorts employ what appears to be a proprietary fabric that offers a level of water resistance rarely to be found below the waist. in keeping with my contention that well-fitting shorts ought to be a bit of a struggle to put on, the q36.5 wolf thermal hybrids were impressively skin-tight in use, offering a level of comfort for which you should envy me. the bib straps are of suitably considered width and exert no undue pressure on the shoulders. the back is predominantly of mesh fabric, once again, aiding overall breathability.


in common with the hybrid jersey, each thread of the fabric is coated with a water repellent prior to weaving; comfort and joy in one fell swoop. though the hebridean cold weather may have eased just a smidgeon of late, despite all my protestations of being big and tough and strong, i'm afraid leg warmers had still to be worn, preventing any possibility of the easter knees about which the late david duffield often waxed lyrical. nonetheless, the shorts offered a comfort that veered perilously close to perfection, though i did find claims about built-in lumbar support just a bit hard to swallow.


after only a matter of a few kilometres in the saddle, i managed to get the the hybrid que long-sleeve jersey a bit wetter than i'd planned. the happy ending of that story rests on the jersey's water-resistance, stoically keeping the water beads on the outside, while that luxurious baselayer remained perfectly dry. though the race-fit would allow for little other than a baselayer beneath, its constitution is that often described by others as a jacket. the sleeve length brought smiles to my elbows, as indeed did that of the torso, replete with three capacious back pockets. though the review sample was coloured very black, it is also available in a particularly bright lime green, along with red, blue and a shade i'd scottishly describe as heather.


the entire assembly was rounded off with a pair of oddly abstract-patterned merino/silk socks, garmentage that did for the feet what the baselayer did for my upper body.

that i have never before come across q36.5, i consider something of an embarrassment. clothing of this quality deserves to be brought to the attention of a wider cycling public. i have enjoyed a substantial number of comfortably clad kilometres in the ensemble described above, where each piece appears to have been designed and made with explicit reference to the others. i'm perhaps not the right person to ask about performance, though i did give it my best shot on the approach to bruichladdich's rather ostentatious 30mph sign. it's at times like that when you discover that the phrase 'eyeballs out', might be highly dependent on your point of view.


if there's any justice in the world (and i sometimes wonder), a lot more members of the pelotonese will fearlessly discover this extreme vision of cycle clothing's future. there's little doubting q36.5's ability to influence what we'll all be wearing when contractual negotiations for our giro d'italia start are complete. what a brilliant, sartorial time to be a road cyclist.

the short sleeve baselayer is available in grey only and sizes small-medium and large-extra large price is €79. the black only wolf hybrid bibshorts can be had in sizes from xs to xxl at a cost of €204. q36.5's hybrid, long-sleeve jersey is available in black, blue, red, lime-green and heather in sizes xs - xxl at a price of €204.


saturday 31 march 2018

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new kids on the block

tresca bikes

most of us have a favoured bike brand, either one arrived at through inspiration, or by means of more pragmatic circumstances, such as ownership or a test ride. though hardly relevant to this particular discussion, two of the sunday morning peloton have recently acquired brompton folding bikes, a brand of velocipede i too have had on my desire list for more than just a few years. however, unlike either of my fellow pelotonese, i can scarcely justify such a purchase, for in truth, i'd have no foreseeable reason to ever fold the bike in the first place.

however, i was offered a brief pedal on the most recent acquisition, just long enough to bolster that latent desire and to discover that the steering is a bit more alert than was i.

tresca bikes

but in similar manner to that of the seemingly never ending supply of cycle clothing, the prospective cycle buyer has considerable choice when it comes to filling that extra space in the bike shed. not only is there a bicycle suitable for every conceivable need or requirement, but colour options and material choices are scarcely in short supply. orange steel, blue aluminium or red carbon are hardly off the shopping list and should component choice be of prime consideration, many are available as frame-only, at which point the whole shopping thing begins all over again, albeit on a smaller scale.

i seriously doubt even a newcomer to the sport would be found bemoaning the lack of choice, so when someone new comes along, from the uk no less, promising that their, 'engineered and built in london', as yet unreleased product, is 'optimised, using state of the art engineering techniques for a more powerful frame', i cannot but deny that the word 'rhetoric' sprang to mind. however, it is hardly fair to judge without further investigation, so i asked the folks at the newly formed tresca bikes about those 'advanced engineering techniques'. how are they any different than the techniques employed by other manufacturers of quality aluminium frames?

tresca bikes

"Drawing on our aerospace engineering experience, we evaluated every design decision utilising Finite Element Analysis (FEA) based optimisation to tune the performance of the frame. In the launch product, we've designed every detail from the ground up. In the early stages we defined a number of key ride characteristics such as power transmission stiffness, handling stiffness, ride comfort and weight. We then compared these against our leading competitors to set our targets.
"Tresca are by no means the first brand to bring this engineering expertise to the bike industry, and many of the other major players are also utilising similar expertise and techniques. However we believe that we've identified a market niche currently neglected by existing brands. As riders and engineers, what we see in existing products is an elitism of high quality engineering being reserved for exotic high cost products. In bikes priced between £1000 and £2000 we see the looks and marketing of elite models, but too often with minimal engineering and optimisation of the materials used at this price point."

tresca bikes

it's fairly clear from the above answer that a tresca bike is not one liable to fall to pieces before the warranty runs out. the folks in london certainly seem to have their sh*t together (so to speak). but perhaps the most unusual aspect pertaining to tresca is use of the phrase 'engineered and built in london' to introduce prospective buyers to their website. though the resurgence of steel as a viable frame material, only a matter of a decade or so ago, has brought to light many individual framebuilders, even stretching as far as mass-production models, we have become inured to the supposition that most of what rides today's sportives has been built and/or assembled in the far east. is tresca building its aluminium frames in the uk, or are they too constructed in the far east?

tresca bikes

"Our bicycles use a high-end, hydroformed 6069 aluminium frame designed and engineered in the UK, but manufactured in Taiwan. The manufacturing is done using our own hydroforming moulds, while the frames are subsequently joined together in our own welding jigs. The frames and components will be delivered to the UK separately, arriving from our global chain of suppliers and built into complete bikes in our UK assembly plant."

the chaps at tresca are not naive enough, however, to believe they're the only ones treading this individual path. though their construction techniques may well provide us with state of the art alloy frames, unless we can purchase them for a few pounds less than the established competition, there's a better than evens chance that tresca might remain significantly low on the wishlist. economics, however, can play every bit as large a part in the quest for the dithering customer as does shiny tubing. tresca claim to have achieved this very state by means of a vertically integrated, lean business model. as one with no training in economics whatsoever, nor even a particularly decent grasp of numbers, what does that mean?

tresca bikes

"In essence, it means removing any extra middlemen and costs between the factory and the consumer. By selling it directly through our ecommerce site, we can cut out everyone and everything that doesn't add value, such as the wholesaler, regional distributor, store overheads etc.
"We intend to operate differently to our competition by concentrating on supply-chain efficiency to setup more lean distribution strategies, reducing overheads and improving operational efficiencies ultimately producing just what's actually needed. This will allow us us to be more flexible and quicker to react to market trends, ultimately enabling us to offer bicycles at competitive prices."

tresca bikes

talking round the houses is something in which i perhaps indulge too often; more readily defined as 'beating about the bush'. it's also none too surprising that marketing mostly does likewise, careful to bring to light all salient features without bringing the bottom line into disrepute. however, midst all the engineering and production banter, what we'd really like to know is what sort of money tresca would like to relieve us of in the process of our becoming avant garde?

"We're aiming to market our first full bike for no more than £1500 featuring our optimised aluminium frame with a carbon fork. This will feature a Shimano 105 groupset, DT Swiss R24 Spline wheels, and Fizik finishing kit. Pricing is, of course, subject to final pricing from our component suppliers. We also hope to offer the frameset and carbon fork for around £800."

tresca bikes

it's hard to deny that those numbers are less than stratospheric and within the reach of many of today's pelotonese and those keen to join. but tresca aren't entirely alone in the often cut-throat world of bicycle sales, where frequently low-priced machinery is built down to a price point rather than up to a specification. if we accept this as an immoveable truism, who do tresca see as their main competitors?

"Due to our ambitious nature, we see our main competition coming from similarly priced models from the major players. However, what we find very encouraging is a revival of aluminium framesets from the big brands too. To pin it down to individual models, we can't fail to target the highly acclaimed Cannondale CAAD12, the lightweight Trek Emonda ALR and the stylish BMC roadmachine RM03.
"In our development cycle, we've focused on creating a bicycle which combines the best aspects of the competition into one single, superior product."

tresca bikes

in the process of highlighting the bicycles that they see as their direct competition, tresca have almost inadvertently pointed out a variety of choice that we may already have found to be very much to our advantage. trek, cannondale and bmc have all been around for quite a while and all have achieved successes in the competitive realm that plays to our weakspots when it comes to heading to the bike shop. we're hardly short of choice, so do the chaps at tresca figure that there's actually room for yet another bicycle manufacturer in a crowded market?

tresca bikes

"Bike consumers are smart. They research products and technology before they make purchases and they love their sport. We are aiming to make better bikes than our competitors and if we achieve this, then there is definitely room in the market for Tresca.
"By removing any middlemen, we'll be able to serve our customers a lot better than many big brands whose products are sold in stores. Communicating directly with the customer means we're able to address their questions, providing feedback to our designers and adapting to market trends a lot faster than the big brands who simply cannot do so with their existing distribution networks. "We also believe that there is room for a British road bike brand. As a nation we have a great reputation for winning the sport's biggest stages, but currently there's currently no high-end, direct to market, British road bike brand. We see this as a major opportunity."

tresca bikes

there's little doubt that tresca offer a compelling case. the notion of a high-quality, british road bike is one that's probably highly attractive to many a uk cyclist, one that strives to join the ranks of top cycle-clothing purveyors such as rapha, le col and endura who currently fly the flag proudly across the world. but that leaves me with just one question: why should i buy one?

"Because we will have made you a great bike, offering great performance, improved power and more comfort than our competitors, all proven by scientific engineering optimisation, accompanied by great looks and at a great price.
"It will also be super cool to say you were one of the first to own a Tresca bike!
"With this, our first product, we are aiming to launch a brand with ambitious plans for the future. The Tresca Engineering team have vast composite engineering expertise and we are excited to start applying it to the bicycle industry. But we will only do so when we feel using carbon composites will bring a better end product to the rider. Will it be on a high end time trial machine or a super compliant gravel bike? Only time will tell. We aim to enter the market with our production road bikes within a couple of months."

you can follow tresca's development process at tresca bikes

tresca bikes

friday 30 march 2018

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my wednesday evening was occupied with pleasurable percussive duties, but their slightly onerous nature effectively means no discernable scribblings for today's post. to reprise the clichéd drumming joke: "how do you get a drummer to slow down? place sheet music on front of them", my performance required the reading of several charts, so i'd homework to do.

however, all is not lost, for related to yesterday's review of will fotheringham's new book 'sunday in hell' (published today) and thanks to the generosity of yellow jersey press, i have a copy to give away to the first sender of the correct answer to the question below.

in which year did the paris-roubaix featured in jorgen leth's movie take place?

please send your answer to and make sure you include a full postal address, so that i can send the prize in the right direction. closing date is tuesday 3 april.

thursday 29 march 2018

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sunday in hell: behind the lens of the greatest cycling film of all time. william fotheringham. yellow jersey press hardback 259pp illus. £16.99

sunday in hell - william fotheringham

the two most successful, fictional cycling movies i can think of would be american flyers and breaking away, both rightly regarded as classics, yet betraying this in a rather anachronistic manner. though the two were written by steve tesich, there's no doubt that riders racing steel bikes is very much at odds with today's formula one technology, epitomised in the shape of monocoque nano fibres. the racing too, suffers from the often melodramatic needs of the movie theatre, rarely matching the likes of sunday's gent-wevelgem. 'breaking away' suffers (if that's the correct word) from the now odd concept of a cycling enthusiast being besotted with italiana, particularly since that country is no longer the heart of the velocipedinal world.

time marches on.

more appealing and often no less iconic, are those that feature live action, real life cycling; often black and white documentaries featuring many of the world's great cyclists such as fausto coppi, eddy merckx and the lads, though probably now viewed on dvd, but rarely anywhere near a cinema. the big screen first saw jorgen leth's stars and watercarriers, a highly rated film of the 1973 giro d'italia, followed a few years later by the same director's idosyncratic view of the 1976 paris-roubaix, a sunday in hell.

if it's a movie that has escaped your attention, you should consider this as an indication of a more than sheltered upbringing, a serious omission from your cycling education and one that ought best be remedied as soon as possible. preferably the household dvd player would fulfil this function, but if all else fails, it is available on youtube. depending on your sense of propriety, it may be best to watch the movie before reading william fotheringham's latest book, a publication which takes its name from the movie and explores the trials and tribulations experienced by director jorgen leth in its making.

i have long been of the opinion that the mechanics of bringing a production to the stage or screen are best left in the care of those involved. learning that the scenery was made of polystyrene, or that the sheriff's office in a western town bears only a front and no back, is almost guaranteed to undermine the faux reality of any production. who knew that darth vader wasn't really luke skywalker's father, but actually bodybuilder, dave prowse?

fotheringham's sunday in hell may well be the exception that proves the rule, since rather than bursting any metaphorical bubbles, its narrative arguably enhances any appreciation of leth's masterpiece. though i've seen the film more than just once or twice, rather than reprise the experience before opening the book's covers, i read it cold turkey, so to speak. should you opt to watch and read simultaneously (not as daft as it sounds), matching pages with scenes is greatly eased by the placing of time stamps adjacent to key paragraphs throughout. but it's the opening paragraph that accurately recreates the experience every cyclist surely appreciates, no matter whether for the first time or the hundredth.

"We start with the sound of a chain, the tick-tick-tick of the links running over the bar that has been thrust into the gap between the drop-outs of the silvery frame..."

if ever there was a guarantee of the quality to follow, will fotheringham has nailed it in the first sentence.

far from the years of second-by-second planning that accompanies even the lowest of budgets, leth had little option but to accept the premise of an unscripted event that had no intention of altering its schedule to accommodate the whims of a danish cinematographer. and had a notional script gone precisely to form, the winner of the 1976 paris-roubaix would have surely been merckx, moser or de vlaeminck, rather than the subsequently ill-fated flandria rider, marc demeyer. that is surely one of the principal differences between fact and fiction?

in the 1970s, paris-roubaix was the property of the newspaper le parisien libéré and under the jurisdiction of félix lévitan, a man who harboured "the power to make or break (Leth's) project...". negotiations were perhaps less strained than lévitan's reputation might have suggested, but it was not the first time he and leth had met. "...the film-maker describes their relationship as 'strange' and 'difficult'. the dane had previously attempted to make a film about the tour de france. but due to its potential cost, this film never saw the light of day.

"He wanted to scare us", says Leth. ..."I've studied your letter. I can tell you this is a very difficult project. Paris-Roubaix is an impossible race to film..."

in the light of lévitan's pronouncement, it's worth recognising, prior to reading fotheringham's narrative, that the 1970s were far from the days of digital anything; there was no recording of footage to extensively searchable hard disks, no lightweight, remote-controlled drones, nor the luxuries of non-linear editing suites. in fact, there was also a conspicuous lack of smartphones, meaning leth had no means of keeping in touch with each of his twenty-seven cameramen once the race was underway. in the light of this 'small' matter, not only does the film seem every bit as immediate today as it did then, but has received its fair share of well-deserved plaudits throughout the past forty plus years, not least for its first use of the recently developed, helicopter-mounted wesscam.

this is surely due in no small part to leth's 'working credo', outlined in a 2002 edition of the danish film institute's film magazine and quoted here by william fotheringham.

"Film is a series of images put together. Not a sequence, not a story, but a series of images, nothing more. The order of the images is less important than the single image."

oddly enough, my own appreciation of leth's sunday in hell has perhaps disfavourably coloured my appreciation of each subsequent year's event, watched live on eurosport. in just over a week's time, along with thousands of others, i'll watch this year's race to roubaix velodrome, probably in the vain hope that it will equal or surpass the event depicted in leth's masterpiece. in advance, i know i'll probably be disappointed; cycle racing has changed dramatically since then and there's unlikely to be an inspiring soundtrack to add a conspicuously absent sense of monochrome atmosphere. (but i'll love it nonetheless).

"Since the early 2000s the vast team buses that criss-cross Europe carrying the stars and watercarriers have parked up in a line outside the the velodrome, air-conditioning motors humming; the riders can shower in peace inside [...] The velodrome is only used now for the finish of Paris-Roubaix. Otherwise, it lies empty..."

jorgen leth may consider himself highly fortunate that the project worked as well as it did. On the road, the contract with 'chance' went Leth's way almost immediately..." though it transpires that not everything went purely the way of chance. with 27 cameras covering a single race in one day, there was the urgent problem concerning chronology.

"So what we did - it was a smart guy among the producers who thought this up - was we got a deal with Longines watches, and every cameraman had to start every shot by shooting (filming) his watch."

fotheringham's narrative reveals many such revelations, none of which are akin to learning that widow twanky is actually a bloke in a dress. in fact, i'd go so far as to suggest that in order that leth's a sunday in hell be viewed in 3d, all future sales of the movie ought to be compulsorily accompanied by a copy of this book. just as the film has stood the test of time, considered a true cinematic masterpiece and revealing new features on each subsequent viewing even after forty years, the book is likely to follow suit.

two of a perfect pair.

wednesday 28 march 2018

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battle of the wolf packs

wolf pack

to all intents and purposes, the sunday ride is sacrosanct. unless there's a danger of physical danger from crosswinds, the velo club congregates at the appointed hour outside debbie's, ready and willing to ride our bicycles. i'm well aware that, now we're knee deep in the spring classics, eurosport have incrementally increased their kilometre coverage of each race on the ascent to the ronde and paris-roubaix, but still, the sunday ride is the sunday ride, no matter how many minutes of commentary we might miss.

of course, there's the unaccountable knowledge that, as we get older, we appear to be getting faster (i've checked the distances; it's definitely the speed), so it seems almost effortless to contest the sprint, quaff some froth, argue about obscure bicycle facts and still be home with over 100 kilometres of one race or another, still to go. that was the case on sunday at gent-wevelgem, an intriguing race, not only for the exciting finish, but also for the impressive continuing road debut of world cyclocross champion, wout van aert. never has the willems veranda's crelans jersey featured on telly so much, even in the years when sven nys played on the road.

nobody likes every combination of eurosport commentators - one in particular has forced a substantial decrease in volume come the last ten kilometres - but declan quigley augmented by brian smith is a more than amenable setup, so the volume was up for the afternoon. bora's peter sagan seems to have acquired the ability of oscar freire to pretty much always be in the right place at the right time and have the perspicacity to use that to his advantage with commendable regularity. sagan was undoubtedly sunday's winner, but quickstep's elia viviani heavily underlined the view that second place is simply the first loser, apparently distraught that he missed out on the line.

had there been a team prize, however, belgium's quickstep floors, would probably have carried home the trophy, placing viviani in second, stybar in eighth and gilbert in 17th, underlining their strength in numbers, even if the podium's top spot escaped them on this occasion. niki terpstra's victory in friday's e3 harelbeke may have been scant consolation to manager patrick lefevre, but if nothing else, it demonstrates that, once more, they are arguably this year's classics team to keep an eye on. buoyed by this situation, it appears that the boys in the quickstep band have developed a level of camaraderie that has lead to them proposing adoption of the moniker 'the wolfpack'.

considering some of the self-adopted nicknames sported by the more cavalier among the peloton's victors, adoption of an animal meme, ostensibly to scare the opposition into submission, might be no less bizarre. but that doesn't actually make it sensible in any way, shape or form.

it's a viewpoint shared by gareth evans

gareth is one of four cycling nutters who decided to make a difference to the world, mostly by once undertaking 'the most ludicrous cycling challenge we could imagine'. lest you doubt the apparent rhetoric, in order to swell the coffers of the save the children fund, in august 2017, they rode from geneva to sanremo in one sitting, over 500 kilometres distance. to place it in a more manageable perspective, it's the equivalent of three mountain stages of the tour de france over a 24 hour period.

they call themselves, the wolfpack. and now you can see the problem.

however, you'd scarcely find yourselves undertaking a challenge such as that described above, nor planning another similar extravaganza at the end of july this year, were you not willing to defend your honour. so gareth and his mates are now planning to give the lads at quickstep a hard time, intent on having them back down, rather than relinquish their own, well-earned corporate persona. they have even gone so far as to taunt belgium's top lads by referring to them as the 'fake wolfpack'. i seriously doubt that last remark was designed to alleviate viviani's wevelgem wounds.

so, the ball is now very much in quickstep's court, gareth ending his well-aimed yet civilised invective with the query, "what are you going to do about it?"

sadly, well connected as i purport to be, i don't know anyone in quickstep to ask for their side of the story.

the real wolfpack | watch the video

tuesday 27 march 2018

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