Friday, 30 December 2011

New Year's Revolutions

It's my blog and I'll pun if I want to. Anyway, it’s a few days early, but I’m going to start working out my goals for the New Year. Not quite resolutions, but cycling related things that I’d like to accomplish.

1.) I will massively increase my mileage.
Most of this year I’ve done a couple of solo six to twelve mile rides per week, with the occasional twenty-miler thrown in, and one fifty-miler. So an average week has been weighing in at about 24 miles, a good week in the forties and an incredible week in the nineties.  For 2012, I’m going to make an average week hit the 60 mile mark. That said, I might try not to spend every mile going flat out the way I currently do. Also, I will find out what those bigger sprockets are for.

2.) I will stop mocking Dave Harmon’s commentary.
It’s all good-natured, but I do give Dave more grief than he deserves. Not that he ever reads my tweets. Ok, I’m pretty sure you don’t really pronounce it “Fuh-google-sang”.  Nor can I ignore the fact that no other cycling commentator will so consistently look at break that’s got a 35 second advantage with 25K to go, observe that Lampre and HTC are doing the chasing, then sagely announce that he thinks it will stay away to the finish. Death knell pronouncements aside, though, I’ve got to get over my resistance to any commentary team that isn’t Phil and Paul. Besides, he’s got Magnus Backstedt to keep him in check, and he beats Carlton Kirby’s breathless explosions every time a Latvian chancer is first to crest a molehill 100K from the finish.

3.) I will not attempt to carry out every single repair and tune up using a monkey-wrench.
Poor, poor Purple Peril. Many of his straight bits are bent due to the overzealous application of a monkey wrench better suited to coercing reluctant mafia debtors than tightening the bolts on a seat tube. This year, I won’t try to fix the unfixable, and I will use tools appropriate to the job.

4.) I will not train by dead reckoning.
I’ve got bad habits: Using low gears make you look feeble. Guinness contains iron and is therefore a food supplement. Twenty minutes riding so hard that I’ve wept blood with each heartbeat means I can spend the next three hours going slowly. This is not science. This year I will work out what I want to accomplish and find out the best way to achieve it.

5.) I will stop making easy predictions.
I’ve had a lot of mileage on internet forums this year simply by spotting the sort of short, sharp climbs that suit Joaquim Rodriguez, or the sort of deceptive finishes to lumpy days that suit the tougher breed of sprinters such as Peter Sagan and John Degenkolb. Easy predictions, easy wins. I feel slightly guilty, so this year I’m going to make some riskier predictions - Janez Brajkovic to get a Tour De France podium, for starters.

6.) I will learn to descend.
On my terrifying run down Mt Ventoux I noticed that simply glancing across the road was enough to make me sway off course at terrifying speed. I’ve since discovered that this is a well-known phenomenon, usually used as an aid to descending.  Keep your eyes on where you want to be when you come out of the corner, they say. If only I'd known that on my downhill run, I wouldn’t have put a year's worth of wear on the brakes of a rented bike. Seriously though, getting better mileage is just a matter of building physical strength, but getting downhill safely is a matter of building a braver brain, and that’s something I need to work on. I want to be able to take the mickey out of Andy Schleck again, and I can’t do that while I’m sympathising with his timorous downhilling.

7.) I will blog to my strengths.
Next year, every post will contain a reference to Peta Todd, deer and Mt Ventoux, because those are the ones that get the traffic, and I believe in serving my audience, which apparently consists of horny, animal-loving grimpeurs.

Monday, 26 December 2011

I'm a very lucky man.

Forgive the typos, I'm enjoying a few seasonal snootfuls. I'll fix them later. It feels a little unseemly to post a blog about all the cool cycling-related goodies I got for Christmas, but in the absence of professional road races to write about there’s a strong possibility that I’ll be using reviews to keep the blog ticking over, so I should let you know what to look forward to.

I’m blessed with wonderful wife and family who are kind enough to know and humour an obsessive when they see one and among the cycling-themed presents waiting under the tree were:

Shimano M520 & Red Shoes
Clips and straps have served me well for the past couple of years, but the last time my devotion to cycling attained a reasonably feverish pitch was about five years ago, and I had SPDs back then, and I wanted them again. I must admit, I’m not looking forward to learning to use them all over again. I’m hoping the heel flick will be saved in my muscle memory somewhere, but I strongly suspect I’ve got some comedic sideways topples in my near future. Actually, I have four pedals, as my in-laws didn’t realise that the pedals are sold in pairs. Look at those shoes, how cool are they? I want to wear them every day, and damn your ruined parquet floors.

Maglia Rosa
I love the Giro.  The Tour will always be the superior race, but only because of the the indefineables, the “je ne sais quois”. The Giro, on the other hand may come in second, but you can easily articulate all the reasons why it should come first: the unpredictability, the meat-flinging partisans, the Dolemites, and the sense of style. It’s that last one that’s shared by this history of the Giro from Rouleur. Look at that cover- the perfectly chosen photo, simple typeface and tidy dimensions. Anyone who’s found themselves paying through the nose for a copy of Rouleur magazine without even checking what’s inside it will already be aware of just how powerful good design can be. It’s nice to see that the same attention is paid to their books, especially when you know that words from Herbie Sykes mean that there will be substance to go with the style. That said, me and a Swiss army knife have so far failed to get through the actual packaging.

The Vault
An anti-novel, apparently. But perhaps not in the way its author thinks. My wife chose it for me based on the back cover blurb, which contains the line “a gripping tale of army snipers, nuclear espionage and competitive cycling.”  It does dozens of things that they probably tell you not to do in novel writing class, and is really enjoyable because of it.  

Hulstra Jersey:
Have you noticed how a slightly throwback, seventies look has become quite hip lately? This windproof top is the hippest thing I own. Slightly shiny, white and orange, fleece lining and zip pockets on the back. It’s beautiful. I’ve been complaining lately that it’s just too cold to stay out for long, but this should change all that.

2005 Tour De France DVD:
It occurs to me looking at this that when I started watching cycling, Channel 4’s coverage consisted of half an hour of highlights every day, for 21 days.  I used to feel like my many, many highlight DVDs were merely a substitute for the actual TV coverage. It’s strange to think that 12 hour highlight DVDs mean that I’ll see more of the race now than I did when it happened.

Bicycle Dreams
I’ve seen the odd documentary about the Race Across America, but this seems to be the definitive DVD on the subject.  Cycling is such a telegenic sport, it’s hard to get the visuals wrong, but from what I hear Bicycle Dreams finds the story to go with them. I might stick this on later tonight, unless someone manages to mobilise a strong  Downton Abbey/Strictly Come Dancing block vote.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Ah, the vagaries of blog traffic.

Oh look, I've had a traffic spike, I wonder where it came from? Ah, you're all googling "Peta Todd." And at Christmas too. You're all going on Santa's naughty list, you dirty little monkeys.

Just kidding. As you were.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Three Days in Corsica

Nope, not my holiday plans for 2012 but the Grand Depart of the 2013 Tour De France. I'm properly chuffed about this. If you've ever watched the Criterium International then you'll know what a cracking venue for cycling Corsica is.

The entire island seems to be made up of porous rock and spindly trees that give it a slightly more exotic look than will be offered by, say, next year's spin around Liege. Corsica isn't just good looking, either, it's lumpy. It's like ASO looked at the Vuelta's decision to have a summit finish on stage four of their 2011 event and decided to trump it by having the Tour break the 1000 metre ceiling with the Col de Vizzavona on only the second day.

Of course, there are no actual summit finishes in that first week, so its unlikely that the three day Corsican trip will do much to shake up the eventual GC, but with over 2000 metres of climbing on day two and just under 2000 metres on day three, we might well see a successful first week breakaway, something that's vanishingly rare these days.

Hey, remember when Claudio Chiappucci was in a breakaway on the second day of the 1990 Tour and ended up defending the Yellow Jersey for the best part of three weeks? Hmmm...

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Star Spotting

Check this out:

Yes, that is Fabian Cancellara out for a weekend spin in Richmond Park. Can you imagine if you were just some club cyclist and Spartacus suddenly joins you for the most demanding bit-and-bit of your life? You'd wet yourself.

Personally, I intend to spend every hour of tomorrow's daylight riding back and forth through Bushy Park just in case he's scoping that out as well.

Nice pics by Roz Jones as well. The only thing that could make this cooler were if he were being chased by a dog named Benton.

Friday, 2 December 2011

All I want for Christmas is me two front cleats...

Hopefully the seasonal icon of your choice will soon be bringing me a pair of road shoes and some Shimano clipless pedals. I find this concept so exciting that I've become giddy enough to resort to awful puns in my titles.

I've always wanted a bike with two things: clipless pedals and an STI groupset. With Tiagras selling for nearly £300 the latter is going to have to wait, but the former should be a reality by January.

I've actually had clipless pedals before, so I have some experience of the cycle of increasing the spring tension, falling over sideways, getting used to the release mechanism, tightening the spring tension, falling over sideways, getting used to...and so on. Having said that, it's been a long time since I used them, the shoes having disappeared in one of the many Uni and post-Uni house moves I've made. I'm fully expecting to be very rusty and to pick up a few new bruises.

The funny thing about my last set of clipless pedals and shoes was that I'd blagged them off a friend, a mountain biker who'd broken his back so badly that he was half an inch shorter when he healed. He didn't want his bike, or his purple, yellow and chartreuse shoes anymore, as he'd celebrated the removal of his orthopedic back brace by taking up roller blading, which tells you everything you need to know about road cycling's exuberant, mud-splattered cousins.