busy doing nothing

empty finish line

the uk's schoolchildren are currently banished from their classrooms, probably very much to the boundless joy of many. however, there are still lessons to be undertaken starting today, following something of an odd easter break. all manner of differing activities have been devised by home-based schoolteachers, to keep their young charges, not only occupied, but amused and intrigued. we, on the other hand, may not be quite so well attended to, whether still at the office as key-workers or furloughed and sat at home pondering the bigger questions that remain unanswered.

questions like, 'do i really want to watch the tour in august?', will paris-roubaix be quite the same if not run in april?' and 'what is that odd burning smell when i'm on the turbo-trainer?' so, in the spirit of keeping occupied in a velocipedinal manner, here's the task for today. find some race footage from last year, probably on youtube or eurosport player, turn the volume off, switch on the recording app on your smartphone or ipod, and commentate.

for the majority, i would imagine that on playback, there will be more 'eh's', 'ands', 'buts' or any number of vacuous grunts and words than there will be valid and edifying commentary. and before you began your commentary, did you research each team, who was riding, what their current form is, what recent victories they may have achieved and any number of other relevant details? i thought not.

the job of a commentator and/or cycling pundit is a darned sight harder than it might at first appear; like many an activity or skill, those who are good at it make it look (or sound) quite simple. but, along with many, cycling commentators are currently somewhat under-employed as a result of a complete lack of live racing. doubtless it's every bit as complex to commentate on the virtual races appearing on zwift and the like, but as far as i'm aware, none of those events are being broadcast on any of the major channels such as itv4, sky, or eurosport.

so what does a cycle commentator do, when there's no cycling on which to commentate?

carlton kirby and brian smith are one of the more successful pairings to be found on eurosport during a 'normal' season. brian has an admirable racing palmares, including that of twice british road race champion, but considers himself more of a pundit than commentator.

"They are two separate roles and I think if you attempt both, you can get stuck in the middle, which doesn't help the commentator or pundit with whom you are working. Stick to what you're best at in my book."

carlton kirby came to light in the early 1990s, if that's not too contradictory a statement, as the occupant of the 'dungeon' in paris during eurosport's live tour de france broadcasts. "During long, uneventful sprint stages, it was my job to find as many odd or interesting facts about the riders or the regions through which they rode, to aid the live commentators. And every now and again, the live-feed would go down and I'd get my fifteen minutes of fame."

messrs smith and kirby had both been handed commentary schedules in the early part of the year for the forthcoming season, but under the present covid-19 circumstances, all has been put on hold until at least july. with aso publishing tentative plans to hld the tour de france at the end of august, and many other races postponed but with no definitive timetabling, both they and their fellow commentators could be in for a busy year end. as carlton pointed out "Most, if not all of us are freelancers, so we just need to sit tight and see what happens."

i asked both brian and carlton what then does a cycling commentator do, when all the racing disappears? according to brian smith "There's not a lot we can do. I could coach, but when the situation is resolved, commentary will once again, take up most of my time. I had plans to do some sponsored vlogging and other media stuff but this is now also on hold. Meantime, I try and keep a routine, and exercise daily."

carlton kirby has to be one of the most irrepressible gents with whom i have ever shared a phone line. i honestly believe that the man could fill all of his spare time just talking to people and making a living from it. the current lack of live cycling has barely put a dint in his stride. like brian smith, all his scheduled commentary work has evaporated, but in the interim, he has switched tack to podcasting. along with duncan steer, carlton presents 'carlton kirby's cycling lock-in', around forty-minutes of conversation surrounding a race on which, more usually, he might have been commentating. following our telephone conversation, i listened to episode two, 'paris-roubaix', now joined by episode three: 'amstel gold'. to call these entertaining would be something of an understatement.

but what of those whos entire business model revolves around podcasting, even when everything is normal? subtitled as 'the soundtrack to cycling', for over ten years, john galloway and scott o'raw have presented the velocast, a season's worth of weekly podcasts featuring the usual suspects: the giro, the tour, the vuelta, along with the classics, the dauphiné, lombardia et al. presumably suffering from the same lack of racing as brian and carlton, i asked john how many podcasts were currently on the menu and if they were sticking to a specific schedule?

"Two a week for paying subscribers and a show from our premium archive as 'free to listen' for free feed subscribers. The podcasts are mostly as scheduled. We're picking an edition of the race that's been cancelled that week, finding decent footage of it and sending the link to subscribers. Then we just treat the race as if it's happening live and do our usual podcast. Normal history content shows and interviews are as scheduled."

though carlton kirby has, temporarily at least, switched his attention to the podcasting milieu to occupy the enforced downtime, john galloway probably doesn't have the same alternative. so what does he do? "Weirdly I'm busier than normal, involving a lot of talking to subscribers and via social media. Doing the shows about historic races requires more prep, because the teams and riders aren't fresh in my mind."

as a subscriber to eurosport's online player, it was pleasant news to receive in my inbox "Starting 20 March and for the next month, your subscription to Eurosport Player is on us. This means we will not charge you during your next month's bill cycle while we see how the virus situation evolves." the velocast offers subscribers an 'all you can eat' annual subscription, or a pay as you go' alternative. obviously enough, with no live racing, they're unable to present what they've become famous for. have any subscribers, therefore, requested a refund? and does john figure that future subscriptions might also be affected?

"Nobody has asked for a refund. Folk are loving the 'historic edition of the race thing. We're gaining new subscribers most days just now. I think because they're starved of current news and racing we scratch that itch.
"In the long run I think it'll be good for us. We're putting ourselves out there with some free content again after a long break and if we're entertaining enough, we should be able to hang on to the subscribers who've been kind enough to join us."

john's contention that they continue to succeed due to us all being starved of current racing, undoubtedly also applies to 'carlton kirby's cycling lock-in'.

however, it's not only you and i that are being starved of racing. i asked brian smith if commentating was like riding a bike; even after a lengthy break, will it be easy to resume where you left off? he told me "It does seem this way. Every winter i have a three to four month break and when I start commentary duties once again, I am always a little anxious about what I'm going to say. However, as soon as I start, I'm straight into the groove. But I still get a little nervous, as I always want to do my best. I think this is a good thing and keeps me from becoming complacent."

for carlton kirby, however, I get the impression that there is no off-season. "With the increased length of the cycling season, a few years ago, I was spending more and more time commentating, with, at one time only four days off in three months. My wife must have wondered what she'd signed up for." but carlton's remarkably easy-going disposition (if you don't believe me, read a copy of his book 'magic spanner') appears to make him easily adaptable to whichever set of circumstances in which he finds himself.

i had asked both eurosport commentators if they did as i mentioned at the start of this feature: watched races from yesteryear with the volume switched off? brian smith mentioned that "Recently I have been watching a few past races on Eurosport. I find it difficult to listen to myself as I become very self critical. I don't think you can practise commentary. In the past I have rehearsed some bits to camera but always think I do a better job live. I suppose it's a mindset." like brian, it's a mindset of which carlton kirby is also possessed. when i asked him the same question, he just laughed. and after talking to the man for around 45 minutes, i also had to laugh at my naivety of having posed the question in the first place.

hopefully all will be back to normal sooner, rather than later.

carlton kirby's cycling lock-in | the velocast | carlton kirby's magic spanner

monday 20 april 2020

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colombia es pasión! matt rendell. weidenfield and nicolson hardback. 340pp illus. £20

colombia es pasion! - matt rendell

"For a few, elite-level sport pays off. For the majority, it is not even an option. It is sink or swim - and most, of course, sink."

world tour cycle racing is a bit like a revolving door, and every time it spins, someone new steps out. just when you (or maybe just me), think you've got the hierarchy sussed, the next season rolls along and all the names have changed. personally, i've given up trying. yes, i read my copy of pro-cycling every month, in an apparently vain attempt to keep myself informed. but, sit me on the pundits' half-time couch during any race you care to mention, and i'd flounder like no-one you've ever seen flounder before.

the heroes of yesteryear almost all originated from mainland europe, predominantly from the countries you'd expect. but more recently, the chaps easing across the finish lines in the grand tours and a smattering of one-day classics, have seemingly travelled a great deal further to join the professional milieu. nairo quintana, fernando gaviria, winner anacona and last year's tour de france champion, egan bernal are all riders in possession of colombian passports, the latter, as far as i'm concerned, having appeared as if from nowhere.

that dave brailsford signed him to a five-year contract when still presiding over team sky (before the jerseys changed to ineos), proves, if nothing else, that i should never be placed in charge of a cycle team.

author matt rendell has written what is likely to become one of 2020's most complete books, one that happens to concentrate on a nation's cycling and cyclists. where most of the genre remain solely concerned with the riders and the racing, matt's deep knowledge of colombia, - its traditions, its history and its social proclivities - offers a narrative that can only be described as three-dimensional in its scope.

perhaps less prevalent in these modern times, cycling was once seen by european aspirants as a means of escaping the very real likelihood of becoming tied to the land. champions such as fausto coppi and gino bartali were sons of the soil, whose abilities on the bicycle freed them from lives of potential hardship, in return for little money. there is a distinct parallel between the latter and the colombian riders who have made it into the world tour. the major difference between the two scenarios is the constant drug-related battles and indiscriminate murders that are still a very real factor in colombian life. yet throughout recent history, enthusiasm for the bicycle and the promise it offers has scarcely waned one iota.

the story of the arrival of colombia's cycling heroes is, dare i say it, the expected part matt rendell's storytelling. what comes as something of a revelation, is the social responsibility displayed by the likes of quintana and bernal. escape from their homeland has not meant leaving it all behind, and that includes holding their national federation to account. when the federation president sought to take credit for the country's recent successes...

"Nairo cut him short: it was clear to him that much of that success had been achieved not thanks to the federation but despite it."

you'd expect top level cyclists of any nationality, to concentrate almost solely upon their careers and families, training and racing being the components of their own particular groundhog days. yet quintana not only became a friend of unicef, but was also named the goodwill ambassador for colombian agriculture, representing colombian produce abroad, to 'develop public policies to improve food production among small farmers'. and his responsibilities scarcely ended there.

"Nairo was scathing about the child hunger. He spoke of a passive government of overweight politicians gorging on dinners while kids were dying of hunger." in itself, that is hardly anything new; the same situation exists in many countries across the world. what is notably different is that a diminutive champion cyclist considers it his duty to try and set the recipe for change.

that colombian cyclists have reached such heights in professional cycling is, in itself, something of a revelation. while sir dave professes faith in his marginal gains, including state-of-the-art nutritional science, measured power outputs, warm-ups and warm downs, even the finest of colombian cycling seems still to adopt coppi's mantra of ride your bike, ride your bike, and ride your bike. granted, the topography of the country is ideal for breeding specialist climbers, but training procedures bear little resemblance to many of those written about in the comic every week.

"...they grew up up-to-date equipment or cutting edge sports science - the expert coaching, nutritional expertise, specialist technology, analytical software or recovery advice...
"In teh face of a collapsing rural economy and diminishing opportunity, the peasant-cyclists of Colombia and Ecuador pursued their own life-projects by dint of unbelievable mental resilience..."

yet, despite stunning research, endless interviews and almost forensic analysis of pertinent races, matt rendell has transcended the 'mere' contents of his book. the writing here is of a standard that he first displayed in his 'the death of marco pantani', and displayed every bit as cogently in his brilliant 'salsa for people who probably shouldn't'. there are many reasons for reading books, and as cyclists, we probably need little persuasion to read anything associated with cycling. however, 'colombia es pasión! should also be read because its author, in my opinion, is one of the finest in his field.

the book features the finest riders to have emerged from colombia in recent years, placed firmly in social, political and historical context. matt rendell describes their early years and emergence as riders of note, and does not shy away from applying his valuable perspective to the drugs problem that has inflicted itself on native colombian cycling, as it has done throughout the sport. it also sports an excellent index at the back.

the current lockdown that affects cyclists and cycling fans across the world, provides the very reading-time many of us usually struggle to find. there can be few better cycling books currently available with which to fill that time, than colombia es pasión!. when competitive cycling does eventually resume, you will be far better informed about its colombian contingent than you are today. it is a south american peloton that has arisen from an indigenous culture that, like many across the world, is now in danger of disappearing.

"Richard Carapaz (winner of the 2019 giro d'italia) said, 'My grandfather tells me things, but he didn't pass them on to my father's generation. The culture has gone now.'
"In a few short years, their world will be lost."

sunday 19 april 2020

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keep the wheels turning

health workers on bicycles

there are few amongst us who are not bemoaning the current lack of cycle racing, some more than others. i should imagine that mrs washingmachinepost is harbouring a hidden grin; with the three italian weeks and the three french weeks now postponed until later in the year, there's a tiny possibility that stuff that ought to be done, might actually get done. more usually, i can cry off any chores due to impending live race coverage or the necessity to watch the evening highlights of both grand tours. i cannot pretend that either or both have a tendency to eat into my available time, but if anything is going to do so, i'd prefer it to be of a velocipedinal nature.

and, of course, there's the riders themselves. though i should imagine the majority of world tour professionals are still being paid at least a portion of their salaries, there's no longer the opportunity to ride unfettered amongst the mountains or byways of their chosen or enforced domicile. only the other day, philippe gilbert admitted that he'd been fined 100 euros for riding out of doors in monaco. many others, like geraint thomas, are spending their bright sunny days on a turbo trainer in the garage. admittedly, in thomas's case, he has cameras and screens in front of him, but the principle's the same.

but what of the ordinary man and woman in the street? obviously, as a famous member of the cycling media, i hardly qualify as 'ordinary', but i still have the ability to ride around the principality in almost the same fashion as ever i did. however, on these weekend perambulations, i have noted that several others, not renowned for their cycling affinities, have been making use of the bicycle to exercise and absorb as much vitamin d as is advisable, away from polite company. though heartwarming to observe, i will be greatly surprised if this recent love for the bicycle persists once we've all returned to what once passed for normal.

last week, a friend of mine sent a link to a video from a friend of his, taken with a helmet-cam during a recent bike ride near stirling. during the three and a half minutes of footage, not a single car passed him in either direction, eerily qualifying as an excellent time to be a cyclist. and on easter sunday past, i cycled almost 30 kilometres without chancing upon a single vehicle or individual, a time of year when islay's traffic would usually be notably on the increase.

i have no idea whether the latter is reflected in cities and urban districts across the country, but i tend to think it is less free and easy than here on the outer edge. that might explain, in part, why many nhs staff and health workers have taken to the bicycle as a practical and safer means of getting to and from work, while practising the social distancing that is of far greater importance in their line of work.

in recognition of this fact, cycling uk have had over 1,000 nhs staff sign-up for their free three-month membership , so much so, that they've extended this to encompass all health and social care workers. of course, it's hardly surprising, therefore, that they could do with a modicum of largesse from the rest of us to help make this happen. if you consider yourself a dyed-in-the-wool cyclist, of whatever flavour or persuasion, consider helping cycling uk demonstrate not only the power of the bicycle, but the power of those of us who deem ourselves to be cyclists with a capital c (except, i don't do capitals). click the link below, donate what you can afford to help, and show them who the good guys are.

it's a darned sight more proactive than clapping from your front door every thursday evening.

cycling uk health worker appeal

photo: forth environmental link

saturday 18 april 2020

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cycling laboratory

quantum computing

in the current issue of wired magazine rests an article describing the race between microsoft, google and ibm, to build the first fully-functional quantum computer. success in this ideal depends on constructing a machine that can more quickly solve a problem than the best of the current crop of more conventional supercomputers. at present, google are claiming the prize for completing a computation in 200 seconds, that they contend would have taken 10,000 years by more conventional means. naturally enough, this claim has been disputed by at least one of their competitors, who argue that a few days would have seen the same result from the current state-of-the-art computing.

google responded by claiming this only to be the case if the standard machinery were hooked up to a nuclear power station.

however, this is all taking place at the more esoteric end of the computing world; it will be a very long time, if ever, that i'll be sat here with a quantum laptop on my knee, polishing off the day's washingmachinepost in a fraction of the time it usually takes. this is, in part, due not only to the cost of the physical machinery, the components of which have to be gold, or gold plated, but also due to the processor requiring to operate only a few degrees above absolute zero. to place this in some sort of perspective, bringing one of these frozen processors back to room temperature takes around a week.

thankfully, cycling computers, though considerably more advanced than the original revolution counters clamped to a front fork, have little need for entering the world of qubits, to inform the rider as to the number of kilometres covered and at what average speed. but perhaps due to luddites like myself and the blinkered management at the uci, the bicycle and the act of cycling suffers from a distinct lack of forward thinking. in short, convention rules the roost, from frame design to transmission and braking technology.

granted, we are now in the era of electronics and hydraulics, neither of which can be considered as particularly innovative. cars, trains, aircraft and the like have benefitted from both for many a long year, and though mountain bikers have had hydraulic brakes to play with for many years, only now is electronica beginning to invade the world of springy farm gates, so parity is once again achieved. but that still leaves the bicycle looking very conventional by anyone's standards. and that might be perfectly acceptable; is there any need to change that? perhaps by common consent, the bicycle is perfectly fine just as it is?

at the moment, however, the world of the bicycle exists in a state of push and pull, where acknowledged advocates frequently contradict each other, and governments change tack more often than most of us oil our chains. what might be desirable is an acknowledged cycling laboratory, where the cycling can be considered not only in isolation, but in several different contexts.

i cannot, however, claim this to be an entirely original idea, for in relation to present day cycling infrastructure, it has already been posited that, rather than considering the netherlands to be a 'bicycle paradise', it should more accurately be viewed as a 'modern cycling lab'. such a consideration, to be fair, is more concerned with policies, action plans and the role of cycling in any government policy actions, than looking at the very big picture.

i would contend that the above mentioned cycling laboratory ought to be extended to include the bicycle itself. current thinking looks at how road infrastructure and town and city planning could be adapted to make room for the bicycle, and to improve ease of use and speed of travel. as far as i'm aware, there has been no time spent on considering whether the bicycle itself may need to be adapted in any particular way. it's quite possible that this is a totally unnecessary request; the fact that the bicycle has essentially changed little in just over a century, might well entail that its form factor is as close to perfect as it can get.

however, even a cursory glance at the bicycle will show that the majority of its development seems predominantly aimed at the very small number of individuals who race them for a living. admittedly, that's hardly an illuminating piece of news; you need only take a look at formula one motor racing to see a parallel that appears to have run away with itself. the fervent hope is that any cutting edge innovations that lead to race wins, will eventually trickle down to the proletariat, a situation we have long and unquestioningly lived with. how true or relevant, is still open to question. and cycle racing is hardly relevant at any level to the design and implementation of public cycling infrastructure in cities and urban areas.

of course, i realise that what i'm suggesting has no more chance of empirical success, than decisions emanating from the boardroom at aigle, but, essentially, would avoid the creation of another level of velocipedinal bureaucracy that we probably don't want. it's purpose in life would be that f an experimental lab, investigating all aspects of cycling and bicycles, with a view to progressing for the benefit of all. i'd feel more than confident in suggesting that chris boardman be appointed ceo, or whatever designated title is appropriate for this hypothetical and highly contentious organisation.

the worry is that, by comparison, the quest for supremacy in the field of quantum computing, may come to be viewed as simplicity itself.

friday 17 april 2020

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a round tooit

disc brake

the cyclocross season essentially lasts from autumn one year through to february the following year. there are one or two stray events that take place after the world championship races, and the occasional rebellious 'cross race springing up during the summer months, but the latter rarely form a part of any specific championship, and can be considered the rock'n'roll of scrabbling about in the undergrowth. the question remains, however, why it is that i have a record of observing the 'cross season, yet remain happy to ride my road bike all year round.

granted, the road season actually appears to continue throughout every month of the year, so perhaps that could be cited by way of justification. the downside to my cyclocross observation is the collateral damage caused to the specialized crux sat patiently in the bikeshed. that's possibly a slight exaggeration; the damage, should it be viewed as such, concerns the hydraulic disc brakes and their 'real-life' operation. if i might take you back a year or two, in late february, i placed the crux in hibernation for a few months, and when time was judged to waken it up, though the brakes worked very well, they did so with little or no lever travel.

this, rather irritatingly, resulted in notable drag at the rotors, and, when the weather proved warm and sunny, that dragging was audibly notified, presumably due to expansion of the hydraulic fluid in the heat. in mitigation, this situation has only occurred since i replaced the pads on each caliper, but, to put it mildly, it's been driving me nuts for well over a year now.

a modicum of research into whether i could release some brake fluid from the pots to alleviate pressure at the pistons, resulted in precisely nought. hydraulic discs fall into one of the many holes in my mechanical knowledge, and i'm always afraid of causing more problems than i solve. however, it seems likely that the problem is caused by the pistons not receding fully into their little caves, thus pressing the pads ever so slightly against the rotors, even when there is no pressure being applied at the levers. the remedy, according to common consent, is removal of the pads and pushing the pistons back into their slots with something unlikely to damage their surfaces, like a plastic tyre-lever for instance.

you will, perhaps, be wondering why i'm telling you all this, without rounding off by announcing a successful repair? the simple response is, that i've yet to attempt it. i'm excusing myself by mentioning that, unlike many, i'm still working; at least for the time being, and have yet to make the time to fettle. and not making time, sad to say, is probably the same for hundreds, if not thousands of cyclists all across the nation and the rest of the world.

in the uk, government advice is to exercise at least once a day, for a period of an hour where practical. whether that exercise takes place indoors, like geraint thomas is doing (for a darned sight longer than an hour, it must be said), or out of doors, if that opportunity still exists. however, when the exercise period is over and done with for the day, who can be bothered with bike-faffing? well, in short, we all should.

if you're a dab hand at fixing velocipedinal stuff, prove it. if you're not, bike shops still remain open to keep the wheels of industry turning, so give them plenty to keep them occupied. or, better still, start learning the basics of bicycle maintenance. many a local bookshop appears happy to deliver orders during lockdown, so if youtube doesn't quite cut it, there are some excellent publications from which to choose and learn.

guitarist, john mclaughlin (mahavishnu orchestra, shakti), posted a short movie on twitter last week, imploring the guitar community to use this time to work upon the parts of their playing with which they have difficulties. it doesn't seem too much of a stretch to apply that sentiment to the inner workings of the bicycle. as i've said before, even if you are bereft of the necessary tools, or simply lack the confidence to attempt some of the more intricate manouevres, you'll be better able to advise the bikeshop of just where the problem lies.

it's the ideal way to win friends and influence bicycle mechanics, and it'll almost certainly occupy more than a solitary hour.

thursday 16 april 2020

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movistar's new jumper

movistar jumper

as an individual with artistic pretensions, as the beginning of each new cycling season beckons, i, and many others, are eager to note the jersey designs due to be sported by the world's top professionals. admittedly, some will be but a minor upgrade to the previous season's apparel, for when you consider the time and money invested in, not only designing a new jumper, but repainting the team cars, buses and trucks, the longer the original design survives, the better, i shouldn't wonder. but for those who have shed last year's sponsor(s), the need for a redesign is readily apparent.

the knowledge that you cannot please all the people all the time, is no doubt an epithet inscribed on a yellow post-it note and stuck to the designer's computer screen. this hapless individual will be required to produce a jersey that will please the sponsor, the team manager and the commentators, the latter who will frequently have to identify team riders from the helicopter shots. if it transpires that everyone's jersey is a variation on blue, for example, you can imagine the consternation at eurosport and itv4.

in the same way that the cycle industry holds frequent shows throughout the year, i often wonder if the world's cycle jersey designers hold an annual conference, just to divide up the available colours amongst themselves? the process is undoubtedly simplified greatly if there is only a single title sponsor, augmented with minimal branding of the bicycle supplier. but if you happen to be the designer for one of the lower-rung, italian pro-continental teams whose sole survival depends on dozens of smaller sponsors, i seriously doubt that creativity is top of your to-do list.

as i mentioned last year, i was asked to design the port charlotte jersey and shorts for bruichladdich distillery, as well as a jersey for ardnahoe distillery. the latter had no restrictions whatsoever, other than to incorporate the logo, while bruichladdich supplied a 95-page pdf describing what i could and couldn't do with their corporate artwork. multiply that by at least four, and you can begin to comprehend the minefield that is cycle jersey design. it's also worth bearing in mind that each jersey comprises several individual panels, so not every design will be immediately practical without one or two compromises.

however, should you think that i doth protest too much and that jersey design sounds like simplicity itself, here's your chance to prove your mettle. the movistar team, in conjunction with their clothing suppliers at alé, have initiated a competition to design a team jersey that they might wear when hopefully returning to racing later this year. some of the jerseys will be signed by team members and delivered to the spanish red cross and italy's protezione civile, with proceeds to support those most affected by the covid-19 virus.

if this sounds like something that would keep you suitably occupied while remaining indoors for the few weeks or so, pop over to the link listed below, sharpen the crayons, and start designing. unfortunately, the website is in spanish, but basically, you download the template, add your design without obscuring the logos, then upload it to instagram, tagging @alecyclingofficial and @movistarteam with the hashtag #seguimosconectados. the judging will take place between 24-26 april. if you win, you'll get a jersey.

ale cycling apparel - movistar team

movistar jumper

wednesday 15 april 2020

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paris-roubaix cobbles

it was originally the clubhouse for the local boys' football club, before being taken over by a childcare facility for a number of years. when they moved out, it lay empty for a year or so, before an enterprising chap living locally, installed several fitness machines and created a private club of sorts. as i understand it, with pretty much no heating whatsoever, every effort is demanded to not only build those muscles, but simultaneously stave off hypothermia.

however, in the days when the footballers still left the occasional unwashed sock on the floor and stored cases of coca-cola cans in the corner, a band of which i was a member, used a part of the facility for our weekly practice sessions. much like the average sunday morning peloton, rock, pop or jazz bands often bring a diverse collection of individuals together for a common purpose. it should hopefully matter not that we all have different interests (even musical) as long as we're all agreed that the music we're attempting to produce at practices such as that described, is all that matters at the time.

on the apprehension that the majority of you will not have experienced the highs and lows of band membership, while gigs tend to offer a seamless presentation of music-making, practices or rehearsals often feature lengthy intervals while a guitarist changes a string, the keyboard player attempts to figure out why middle c isn't working and the drummer tries to trace from whence the bass drum pedal squeak is emanating. this is the point when distracting conversations arise; in the case of this particular band, the two guitarists were often to be found discussing recent football matches.

i am pleased to admit that i know nothing whatsoever about soccer, but incessant discussions surrounding 'last night's match' have a habit of becoming irritating after several weeks. in order to make a point that probably didn't need making, i would occasionally interject with a descriptive, blow by blow account of a sprint finish, hopefully involving an italian with an all but inscrutable name. cipollini always tended to work well.

after looking at me with quizzical expressions on their faces, both guitarists would then realise 'you're talking about cycling, aren't you?' like i said, proboably a point not worth making, but it eased some of my inward frustration revolving around the inexplicable notion that avery bloke was au fait with the intricacies of what they call 'the beautiful game'.

though sports such as football, rugby, cricket, snooker, et al, are of no relevance to me whatsoever, there's really no point in denying that all of the above are reckoned to be of more relevance than cycling. this despite, to paraphrase graeme obree, 'you can't cricket or snooker to work'.

it would be foolish to deny that the attraction of cycle racing is sometimes hard to fathom, particularly if using the sprint stages of any of the three grand tours as examples. upwards of three hours, viewing the velocipedinal equivalent of watching paint dry, before all hell breaks loose when the finish line is but ten or fifteen kilometres distant. given that it often seems common practice to feature a few of these stages in the first week of a three-week tour, it's a point against which it's hard to argue, when the non-believers find themselves compelled to point it out.

but, as pointed out above, cycling is so much more than a bunch of brightly coloured individuals challenging each other over a carefully curated parcours. yesterday should have brought the cobbled cut and thrust excitement of paris-roubaix, postponed until the world gets better. yes, there were one or two virtual runnings of the event, but given the designed iniquities of the real thing, it's hard to see how those could have been successfully replicated in pixels and turbo trainers. its postponement will have caused untold grief amongst the cognoscenti (self-included), but you and i both know that any vocal protestations in lockdown or in a virtual office, are likely to fall on deaf, uncaring ears.

it's all a matter of relevance.

however, though the velo club have forsworn the group ride for the foreseeable future, confining ourselves to unaccustomed individualism, there's little to undermine the salient fact that cycling has perhaps become more necessary in this time of crisis. granted, islay is a somewhat isolated location at the best of times, hardly placing me in the best posiiton to comment widely on the situation. however, on yesterday's uncommonly quiet, easter sunday solo bike ride, i passed five cyclists, only one of whom would normally consider themselves a part of the once regular sunday ride.

even for those who are confined to a garage or shed, aboard a stationary bicycle, probably watching professional avatars dropping them right, left and centre, cycling has (mental) life-saving properties. if you don't believe me, just consider how you'd survive if lockdown expressly prohibited cycling of any kind, indoor or outdoor, until the restrictions were lifted?

that said, unless you work(ed) in a bike shop, i wouldn't bother trying to explain to real or virtual colleagues, why the postponement of a french bike race taking place over several threatening sectors of pavé, is of considerable concern to your wellbeing. unless, of course, you're feeling particularly robust.

tuesday 14 april 2020

twmp ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................