apocalypse in 9/8

eggs for sale

on most sunday mornings, as we congregate outside debbie's café around 10am, almost invariably, someone will drive up, park the car and head to the front door, intent on enjoying a designer coffee before the day's travails. as responsible members of the community, we are happy to point out that debbie's does not open until 11am, and they are thus around sixty minutes too early. many will signal regret at this inquitous situation and return to their vehicles, but every now and again, these hapless individuals will smile and nod knowingly, yet continue to try the door handle.

those are the moments for which we live.

however, should you find yourself in the bruichladdich neighbourhood next sunday (26 may), you may (arguably) count yourselves among the fortunate. for that particular sunday is designated as bruichladdich distillery's fèis ìle open day, at which point, the village will be packed to the rafters with apparently abandoned vehicles, squeezed into every last nook and cranny available. though we, as a rule, do not usually arrive at debbie's prior to 09:45, we will be far from the first to get there. despite the gates of the distillery remaining firmly shut until 12:30, there will be large groups of mostly foreign whisky aficionados congregating on the patio, working themselves into a frenzy before the appointed hour.

in an attempt to mitigate such parking chaos, bruichladdich will have installed several individuals at the lower end of uiskentuie strand, ostensibly to encourage arrivees to park at this point, around a mile from the village, and take advantage of the shuttle buses employed for the day. sadly, those individuals are rarely in possession of the persuadable gene, leaving most of the traffic to head into the village unhindered, at which point the latter will discover that there is nowhere to park. hence the apparently abandoned vehicles.

the islay whisky festival (fèis ìle or the festival of malt and music, whatever you choose to call it) has been a part of island life at this time of year since the turn of the century, and though it brings a substantial level of desired spending onto the island, there will be few of us who do not express several sighs of relief when it's over for another year. i have often heard it described as a 'feeding frenzy', a description with which it is hard to disagree. we reminded ourselves of all this as the velo club peloton enjoyed a leisurely perambulation of the loch yesterday morning.

though the first four miles or so of this route provide access to kilchoman distillery, we were fortunate not to meet an onerous number of vehicles en-route for a dram and a tour, a situation that could have been described as unusual in itself. weatherwise, though the morning hardly turned out to be the better part of the day, the sanctity of the parcours was particularly rural, encouragingly underlined by our coming across the palette hut illustrated above.

not only does this reinforce the inherent beauty of our island, but the continued lack of too much in the way of mainland influence, allowing the existence of several 'honesty' boxes, such as the above, all across islay. had we found ourselves in dire need of an omelette at that point of the bike ride, we need only have left some pennies in a tin, while collecting an equal number of eggs. and less face it, who could resist farm fresh eggs from a wicker basket inside a blue wheelbarrow with pink bar grips?

and just in case you think you might have seen that telephone box on a previous occasion (the venue for the velo club's annual dinner dance), it's one of the illustrations included in graeme obree's training manual, mistakenly attributed to the neighbouring island of jura.

i offer this simply as a pertinent reminder of what islay is like for the intrepid bicyclist, when there's not a whisky festival to negotiate, particularly now that we have nine distilleries and a tenth on the way. thank goodness for blue wheelbarrows.

islay festival of malt and music

monday 20 may 2019

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cutting the edge


several years past, i was kindly loaned a pair of srm power cranks for review, in order that i might acquaint myself and a few readers, of the benefits or disbenefits of learning how many watts it takes to get a coffee these days. in keeping with the male tradition of not reading the manual until you've already broken something, a cursory glance at the first few pages (purely for conscience sake, you understand) elicited an unfortunate likelihood of having to calibrate the cranks in order for the subsequent numbers to make any sense, pages which only confirmed that the manual should only be consulted as a last resort.

the suppliers had offered assurances that the cranks were, in fact, fully calibrated, but i still harboured doubts, since the small portion of the manual at which i had inadvertently looked, seemed to suggest this was a process that had to be undertaken once the cranks were affixed to the bicycle. however, figuring it was worth a try that could be remedied later, should all prove ineffective, i tightened all the necessary nuts and bolts, clamped the display unit to the handlebars and set off into the wild.


those of you who ride with any form of power meter could probably be trusted to nip into the kitchen and boil a kettle or somesuch, but for those oblivious to wattage, let me explain. my meagre power output was consistently displayed on the handlebar unit during the ride, allowing me to view how well or how badly i was doing at any given point. however, the bit that makes much more sense was aprés ride, when the stored information was downloaded to the computer and displayed by the necessary software.

it's all very well knowing that you scraped out over 450 watts when climbing the hill at storakaig, but is that good, or bad, or average and what subsequent training schedule should i follow to make some form of impressive difference? all too often, i believe, there are many who have splashed out on a power meter, because 'that's what the pros do', but without the faintest idea of how to interpret the results.

i can demonstrate the veracity of this misapprehension, because i managed precisely that. after an exploratory ride around the principality, i downloaded the information to my macbook, ready to examine it all with a fine tooth comb. except there appeared to be lengthy sections where the power output had all but disappeared, and at which point i recalled the pages advising re-calibration. at that point i began reading through the salient paragraphs in order to discover just how to re-calibrate when the realisation dawned. those sections where the power was effectively zero, were the points at which i had freewheeled downhill.


if you're not pedalling...

this particular episode was brought to mind after reading the article entitled 'pedalling squares' in the latest edition of procycling magazine. the squares to which the article refers, are small sensors that form part of the new leomo training tool, a piece of motion-capture technology that has the ability to record a rider's position on the bicycle in real-time. according to the riders who have used it, the leomo system can match pedal-stroke with the aerodynamics of their position on the bicycle, along with several other vital slivers of data.

at the risk of stating the glaringly obvious, the resultant information generated by the five motion sensors is probably entirely opaque to even the most intent of bike riders. that's for the coach to decipher, because even if, by some strange quirk of fate, the data does make a smidgeon of sense to the rider, figuring out what to do with it is likely to be beyond the scope of most. pleasingly enough, however, the price of the leomo type-r is a mere £630, surely a drop in the ocean by comparison to the £11,000 commanded by a top of the range, professional level bicycle, ridden by a former three-time world road race champion?

my concern would be that the cost seems far too economically viable for even the intrepid amateur, drawn in by the fact that, once again, 'the pros use it'. and though the technology can only be viewed as entirely neutral, the purposes to which it is put are perhaps guilty of running away with themselves.


formula one motor racing has long attempted to justify its technological and financial excesses on the spurious basis that any advances can only be beneficial to the average motorist, driving the average family saloon. it would be foolish to ignore that this is at least partially true: flip lever gearchanging, traction control, engine management systems have all arrived courtesy of messrs. hamilton, alonso, senna and the other guys in the band. but those are technologies aimed squarely at the vehicles themselves and rarely at the drivers.

power output, aerodynamic positioning, cadence and pedalling efficiency are all factors wholly concerned with the riders, and, to be honest, rarely, if ever, transferable. graeme obree has been quoted as saying (tongue-in-cheek) that training is cheating, never mind the intake of banned substances. do we really want a sport that has wholeheartedly succumbed to technology, where it's no longer purely about human being against human being, without attendant coaches, well qualified in the art of interpreting an ever-growing list of data variants?

and when systems such as that promulgated by leomo become ever more affordable, those deux vitesses once quoted by the french teams, will likely have invaded the average cycle-sportive. the genie cannot be put back in the bottle, and though the governing body seems quite content to legislate on the minimum weight and frame design of the tools of the trade, they seem blissfully unconcerned as to the methodology being used to create a peloton of engineered racing cyclists.


unlike formula-one motor-racing, cycle racing is already fast enough. the spectacle is unlikely to be greatly enhanced by the gaining of a few extra kph in the breakaway. i don't suppose it'll stop anytime soon, but a really wish it would.

the article 'pedalling squares' appears in the june issue (256) of procycling magazine, on sale now.

leomo type-r

sunday 19 may 2019

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saddle - dawn painter

mind is the ride. a journey through cycling and philosophy. jet mcdonald. unbound press in association with boneshaker magazine. 407pp illus. £16.99

"The question in 'Mind is the Ride' is, what is the apostrophe in 'It's all about the bike?"

mind is the ride - jet mcdonald

when in sixth year at secondary school, i made a study of comparative religion for an end-of-year dissertation. the library book from which much of my information was gleaned, if memory serves, was entitled 'religions of the world' (or something remarkably similar) and written by a presbyterian minister. the contents of such a slim volume were well-written, covering the main points of religions such as hinduism, catholicisim, buddhism, islam etc. of course, even as an impressionable teenager, it was glaringly obvious that each and every one of the above ended with a 'but...', where the author rebutted at least one of the principal tenets of each. the only religion, or subsection thereof, that emerged unscathed, was (surprisingly enough), presbyterianism.

it would appear, however, that i learned enough to gain a comfortable pass in the subject.

i can but admit that, when writing up my findings, it never occurred to compare my findings with a more mundane (relatively speaking) aspect of contemporary life. such as association with the components of a bicycle for instance as espoused by jet mcdonald in his exemplary tome, 'mind is the ride'. this is less of a book and more of a project, having first surfaced some three and a bit years ago in december 2015. at that time, i received an e-mail from unbound which advised: "...a new way to connect authors and readers. Authors present a pitch, you pledge, and when the goal is reached the book is written." that funding was obviously successful, for the end product arrived at thewashingmachinepost in early april this year.

dawn painter

mcdonald and his partner jen set off from southern england to ride over 4,000 miles to india and back again. for many, that simple sentence would be enough to have them put the book back on the shelf. there are endless numbers of books written by those who have cycled across continents, or even all around the world, most of which have scarcely any pertinent content for the avid cyclist, other than the fact that bicycles were used as the means of transport. those are what i believe would be referred to as travelogues, of greater interest to armchair travellers than to keen velocipedinists. but as stated on the inside of the dust cover, "(Jet McDonald) didn't want to write a straightforward travel book. He wanted to go on an imaginitive journey. [...] The age of the travelogue is over: today we need to travel inwardly to see the world with fresh eyes."

dawn painter

of course, it would be a tad pretentious not to admit that 'mind is the ride' isn't, at heart, a travelogue, one that is played out from the saddles of two black bicycles. however, the twist is not only in the quality and perspicacity of the author's writing, but by his understanding of the world's religions and philosophies allied to a superb ability to explain each in a remarkably comprehensible fashion. couple that with the chapter headings and dawn painter's superb illustrations; if you're an admirer of the work of daniel rebour, you will love these.

but first, those chapter titles as witnessed on the contents page: the bottom bracket, the bell, the seat tube, the front hub, etc., etc. mcdonald seamlessly relates each of the above to a series of philosophical and religious musings, matching their existence and importance to the realisation that a bicycle is an agglomeration of parts which add up to a whole that is greater than the sum of each. naturally, the first chapter is entitled 'the virtual triangle'. but while this authorial methodology could have resulted in a particularly dry narrative, mcdonald exhibits a commendable combination of reality and humour.

dawn painter

"What is your purpose? What is the meanng of the rumbling road? What is the unchanging truth at the centre of the central reservation? Why didn't you remove the wheels, pedals and handlebars, put the whole shebang in a suitcase, and take the train?"

for those who may have misunderstood the book's title, expecting the very travelogue denied by the dust jacket, they will scarcely be totally disappointed. jet and jen did indeed ride their bicycles all the way to india, and there are sufficient tales of roads ridden, towns and villages witnessed, people met, and occasional misfortunes experienced, to satisfy those who still hang onto the foolish notion that they might, one day, do exactly the same. but there's no doubting that the book's title was uppermost on mcdonald's daily travel diary and word processor, ultimately combining the bicycle metaphor with his simultaneous journeys through the human mind.

dawn painter

given that all of us at one time or another will have suffered a puncture, snapped a chain or encountered other notable mechanical malfeasances, how we deal with such interruptions to the serenity of the ride, says much about our state of mind: philosophical or otherwise. but, so far as i'm aware, jumping up and down, close to tears, has never proved efficacious in fixing a puncture. thus, even if four hundred pages of concerted philosophical thought, related to the velocipedinal realm offers the portent of a less than enticing read, let me just point out that such an assumption will ultimately prove you wrong.

the relating of cycle componentry to aspects of religion and philosophy may possibly be seen as a bit contrived, but i can assure you it works a great deal better than you could possibly imagine and i seriously doubt you'll find anything else like it on a bookshelf near you.

"Our bikes lay side by side that afternoon on the Dorset back road, their black paintwork soaking up the sun till they too became warm to the touch. There were no cars. No passers-by. No beginnings. No endings. No in-between."

mind is the ride - jet mcdonald | illustrator dawn painter

saturday 18 may 2019

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otek aerocarrier

otek aerocarrier

those of us watching the first week's italian shenanigans at the giro d'italia will probably not have noted one of the major differences between racing cyclists and the average, or not so average, commuter. aside from the speed (i seriously doubt there are many (if any) commuting cyclists who return a 42kph average speed), i'm also not referring to the bicycles. much as i think it to be overkill, in my opinion, there are way too many heading to work and the shops on formula one carbon fibre.

otek aerocarrier

i'd like to say that the professional peloton has more vehicles following than a queue at oxford street's traffic lights, but sometimes that seems less true than i'd like it to be. but while we're discussing those following cars, they come in remarkably handy when riders need to divest themselves of unwanted armwarmers, rainjackets and overshoes, or find a pressing need to supply their team-mates with bottles. in other words, those cars are the fast person's equivalent of a rack and panniers.

meanwhile, back in the real world, following team cars are a luxury few of us can afford, either financially or pragmatically. yet, quite frequently, stuff has to be carried; it's not solely the professional elite who need to either don, or remove, waterproof jackets, but it's definitely not the professional who is compelled to fit a flashing rear light, or carry a sturdy lock to prevent theft at the designated feedstation. but simply because there is no contract burning a hole in one of those three rear pockets, does not mean that we're happy to ignore bicycle aesthetics as part of the demands luggage places upon our position in the velocipedinal firmament.

otek aerocarrier

at one point in time, the blackburn alloy rear rack was the staple accessory of both touring and commuting cyclists. its sturdy construction and light weight provided for the majority of the necessities listed on the box-ticking form. the flat base allowed for goods to be strapped to the top of the rack, while the rounded alloy framework easily accommodated any panniers that might prove necessary. but, with no disrespect intended towards the manufacturer, its form factor was very much in the functional arena, with seemingly scant regard to aesthetics.

otek aerocarrier

and fitting a blackburn rack often meant owning a bicycle with suitable braze-ons and a spare hour or so to cope with the inevitable allen bolt faffing. modern-day pragmatism demands that not only should cargo facilities be simple to attach to a wholly unsuitable bicycle, but should do so to most any bicycle you care to mention.

that is where romain duez and his partner enter the fray, with a cleverly and stylishly conceived rear rack, as easily attached to tao geoghegan hart's red and black pinarello as it could be to my ritchey logic. the aerocarrier attaches to both the seatpost and the seatstays, via extendable arms and stay mounted brackets. its geometrically advanced design features a lockable rear top panel, allowing valuables to be safely stowed, if and when the bicycle is left in a public place. the flat top section can carry sizeable items, held in place by a retractable strap and the ability to accept side panniers from the majority of manufacturers.

otek aerocarrier

according to romain, the aerocarrier weighs a mere 700 grammes, yet is capable of carrying up to a 25kg load. and since we, unlike the professionals, are frequently to be found riding after the hours of darkness, the rear of the carrier provides a sculpted slot onto which a flashing rear light can be attached. as with many a contemporary product, bringing the aerocarrier to market costs a tad more cash than romain and partner, inga, happen to have available, so they, like many, have rsesorted to kickstarter, which, as you well know, means an opportunity to get in on the ground floor with regard to pricing and availability. as ever, the link is pixeled below. you know the drill.

otek aerocarrier

friday 17 may 2019

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objects of desire

100 greatest cycling climbs of italy - simon desire magazine

having briefly mentioned my early years absorption with colnago bicycles, i briefly satisfied that obsession by purchasing a steel superissimo, kitted out with a shiny campagnolo chorus groupset. however, the satisfaction was relatively short-lived; cambiago continued to dangle its then top-of-the-range, carbon c40, a bicycle that had morphed into the c40 hp, offering an odd couple of cantilevered cutouts in the chainstays, endorsed by the university of milan.

not entirely unnaturally, that sensation of "i want, i want" was ultimately satisfied with the delivery of a blue-fade 54cm traditional frame, festooned with a combination of campagnolo record and chorus. desire is cited in the tenets of buddhism as samudaya, the second of the four noble truths and the ultimate cause of suffering. logically, that's not an entirely iniquitous suggestion, given that certain forms of desire are not always benign, nor entirely satisfied on achieving the object of that desire.

desire magazine

that could potentially have been the case, with reference to my acquisition of the c40 hp. only a matter of months after it had taken up residence in the bike shed, colnago released the c50. had i not been in the fortunate position (at the time) of having a particularly good relationship with the uk colnago importers at windwave, i would likely not have had the opportunity to ride the c50 and satisfy any desires in that direction. this extended to several other desirable colnagos, before i was cured of such an affliction.


however, those who subscribe to, or purchase the occasional copy of rouleur magazine, will scarcely have missed the desire section that has now become resident in the latter pages of said publication. initially concerning itself solely with cycling apparel, more recent issues have introduced finery from the world of carbon frame production, resulting in the publication of an entire edition all of its very own.

the fact that this first issue of desire features a colnago c64 on the cover, is entirely co-incidental.

editor of the desire section and this stand-alone publication is stuart clapp, a gent i have known for almost exactly nine years; a man that i bump into from time to time at cycle shows and with whom i have long corresponded. so i asked him if the publication of this special edition was as a the result of perceived demand, or internal choice at rouleur?

desire magazine

"Desire' been going now for just over two years. Time flies, when you're having fun, doesn't it? The special issue was something we'd thought about for a while. The feedback we've had from our readers and advertisers has been terrific. We wanted to give our subscribers something too. They get this issue free. But you can, of course, get this issue in all good newsagents. So, a bit of both. Demand and internal choice."

though rouleur quite rightly holds far more clout within the velocipedinal world that does thewashingmachinepost, it's quite possible that they will occasionally suffer from unavailability. by this i mean the desire' to review (in my case) or photograph (rouleur) certain items from cycling's cupboard, only to learn that it is somewhere else at the time. does that impinge upon the content portrayed in each edition of rouleur, or made itself known while planning this solo concert?

"Yes, of course, but we're not obliged to put things in that simply aren't us. There is so much kit out there at the moment; the media isn't short of options to fill their pages. But for me it's about picking stuff that fits Desire. Whether that's from the usual suspects, the big household names, or finding a gem that I've unearthed by scrolling through pages and pages of cycling kit on Instagram."

desire magazine

in similar vein, i have often found myself requesting specific componentry and its ilk, because it seemed to offer the opportunity to be creative with my scribblings, offering something intangibly greater than the, dare i say it, more run-of-the-mill item, covered by many of the world's other cycling publications or blogs. were there any missing objects that stuart would have liked to include in this edition of 'desire'?

"That's a good question. I would've liked to have had a Legor or something from an artisan. A smaller brand. But availability is often tricky for these guys as they're producing bikes made to measure and don't have tonnes of frames, or a demo fleet built-up in some showroom somewhere, to pick from."

desire magazine

the theoretical point of a review (of anything), ignoring any subjective notions, is to provide some sort of appraisal as to the efficacy of any given item. if a bicycle costs the wrong side of £10,000, whether you're willing to spend that sort of money is entirely between you and your bank manager; if you think it too expensive, there's little chance of the manufacturer reducing the price as a result. however, it is the reviewer's job to find out if the price tag is justified and whether the bicycle performs as well as the marketing rhetoric promised. occasionally, though rarely, that turns out not to be the case and in very, very rare situations, an item sent for review turns out to be a dud. what transpires at that point depends entirely on the morality of the reviewer. though i'd scarcely expect stuart to name names, were there any apparently desirous items that failed to make the grade?

"If it got called in, it made the grade. I wouldn't want to call something in for the sake of it and then return it unused. That'd be like getting vouchers back at Christmas you gave to someone the year before. Know what I mean? It has happened, though, but I can't say which brand it was. I didn't call it in. It turned up. That's all you're getting.

desire magazine

specific reviews of specific products, though not necessarily purported recommendations, at least give an indication as to whether the magazine or blog found the reviewed item to be worthy of purchase by its readers. several publications give a rating to their reviews, indicating how it compares to similar items in the same price bracket. desire, however simply identifies the products shown in benedict campbell's creditable imagery. does it concern stuart that the contents might be seen as 'endorsed' by rouleur, even though there are no individual reviews?

"It doesn't concern me - and it's exactly what we want! When we first sat down to talk about doing these pages, we knew we had to do it differently. Crikey. I've known you for a while now. Since we first met I've worked at Cycle Sport, Cycling Weekly, Cyclist... I wrote a lot of reviews over that time. For Cycle Sport, I was writing about top end bikes. I can write about them all you like, but when you're in those upper echelons of bikes, wheels and kit, it's all pretty good stuff. If something is in Desire, it's because we like it."

desire magazine

american frame-building supremo, richard sachs, has often been at great pains to distance himself from those who appraise his steel frames as works of art. though i think richard is wrong and far too modest for his own good, i sort of see where he's coming from. somewhat similar to those who purchase expensive bottles of whisky, only to lock them in a cabinet, unopened, purely for exhibition purposes, purchasing a desirous bicycle and hanging it on the wall of the sitting room, would surely be tantamount to something close to lunacy.

desire magazine portrays each item of clothing and many a carbon bicycle, predominantly on the basis of their pleasing looks. so is it possible that rouleur might be accused of objectifying bicycles, clothing and componentry, all of which has been designed as functional, rather than specifically aesthetic?

"I love the word objectifying! 'I'm not just a piece of carbon you know, I'm aerodynamic!' Yes, I did have this consideration last year at a Castelli press camp in Mallorca, but that's where Benedict Campbell's photography comes in. A picture paints a thousand words. It's like I was saying, reviews are just someone's opinion. I guess it comes down to that initial meeting; If we're doing this, we're doing it differently. Besides, you can find reviews anywhere. How does one go about reviewing a chamois anyway?

desire magazine

if anything could be said to be the equal of the objects depicted in this first copy of 'desire', it is surely the photography of benedict campbell. though the subject matter and its portrayal varies widely, there is a remarkable uniformity in the quality and, dare i say it, design of benedict's imagery. did he have free reign as to how each item was photographed, or was stuart on his case every step of the way?

"I'm never on his case. Benedict is the man! We totally get each other. His quote the other day sums him up perfectly. 'You don't need a location, you just have to open your eyes.' He sees things most of us would miss entirely. It's why he does what he does. My job is to provide him with the products and locations that Desire has sort of become renowned for."

rouleur began life as a quarterly publication, but was so much the subject of desire itself, that the frequency of publication increased sooner rather than later. i recall humorously (i thought) asking original editor, guy andrews, when rouleur would become a weekly publication. i couldn't possibly repeat his answer in such friendly black and yellow pixels. but at the risk of receiving a similar answer, i asked stuart if this was the first of a quarterly or bi-annual series?

"I don't know yet. Honestly. We've been blown away by the feedback and attention the magazine is getting. This is the first interview I've ever done about Desire, so something's up for sure. I hope it will be; I'm sure it will be. It was fun; a nightmare, but fun and I'm very proud of how it turned out."

this first edition of desire magazine is free to rouleur subscribers and can be purchased from the rouleur website and all good newsagents.

desire magazine

thursday 16 may 2019

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rule #five, and then some

100 greatest cycling climbs of italy - simon james mitchell - etape loch ness

it was particularly flattering to have been asked to participate in this year's etape loch ness as a media rider. i always knew that someone was reading this stuff, i just hadn't realised it was the folks in inverness. but invitations such as this, bring with them their very own baggage, some of which may be welcome, while just a small portion could be viewed as slightly onerous.

100 greatest cycling climbs of italy - simon james mitchell - etape loch ness

i have been riding a bicycle since the age of nine (i was a late starter) and, apart from a few years at college in the mid 1970s, i've done so ever since. when the kids were younger, i did possess a motor car for a few years, but happily, those days have passed and i am now more than comfortable describing myself as a cyclist, without the worry that someone might discover a hidden, motorised secret. in short, i figure i have what brian smith described as muscle memory and the training manuals would have us believe is regarded as base-fitness.

all well and good, you might think, but each sunday morning ride tends to hover around the 65- 70km mark and the etape specified nearer 106. if someone has enough faith to invite me to ride their event, it surely behoves me well to ensure that i am sufficiently well prepared to reach the finish line without recourse to the voiture ballai? or, indeed, the personal embarrassment of walking up the hills constituting the timed king of the mountains competition? unsurprisingly, my time for the latter was nowhere near that of the victor, in either male or female category, but at least i managed to remain in the saddle from top to bottom.

but let's face it; i'm a reasonably fit bloke, even though i do say so myself, and barring any accident or mechanical malfeasance, there was a pretty darned good chance i would make it back to the eden court theatre, behind the cathedral, without requiring attention from the paramedics. and i confidently resisted the temptation to snaffle an iced bun at the finish.

100 greatest cycling climbs of italy - simon james mitchell - etape loch ness

however, my own velocipedinal ministrations pale into insignificance compared with the challenges at least one of the five and a half thousand entrants has experienced in his life. james mitchell celebrated sixty years of cycling by also riding the etape this year, having previously ridden the event in 2018. though it may appear this bears the same significance as obi-wan's statement in star wars 'nothing to see hear, move along', it would be salient to the discussion to mention that james suffered from leukaemia in 2004, 2007 and had two further cancer scares in 2016 and again this year. the niggling pain that infrequently afflicts my left thumb seems a tad insignificant now.

"In 2018, I was 63 years of age and my first etape was brilliant, though the downhill sections were pretty daunting. I finished in five hours 17 minutes or thereabouts. Earlier this year I had a thyroid operation, consisting of open surgery on my throat after which the consultant said 'NO ACCIDENTS."

like a true stalwart, he wholly endorsed the definition of velominati's rule #5 and entered etape loch ness anyway. and fortunately, given his consultant's ultimatum, james avoided the scary looking incidents that befell some of the early starters, several of whom came croppers on the still-damp, white lines on some of the more sheltered sections of road. that said, he may well have had the muscle memory to exhibit a smidgeon more care and attention, having been cycling since the 1960s and raced while wearing a deeside thistle road club jersey. and though we should hardly criticise, james also said he's enjoyed the foothills of scotland's munros on his mountain bike.

100 greatest cycling climbs of italy - simon james mitchell - etape loch ness

having enjoyed the two recent etapes loch ness, james is already intent on entering the 2020 edition with sponsorship to raise funds for cancer research. and in that future event, he's applying to the organisers for permission to complete the last three miles into inverness city centre, aboard a kerry of london, handbuilt steel bicycle that dates from the mid 1930s. this is an elderly police-issue bicycle on which he has been the 'bobby on the bike' at the annual lonach march, preceding the lonach highland games each august. it's an annual role that james has been pleased to adopt; the tradition dates back some 90 years, well before the police inhabited panda cars, and wore fluorescent yellow jackets.

so, as you prepare for whatever sportives you may have entered this year, spare a kindly thought for a man who has overcome a lot more than choosing what size of cassette to fit to the rear wheel, or whether that endura jersey might look rather dashing across the finish line. perspective allied with tenacity, is a wonderful thing.

etape loch ness

wednesday 15 may 2019

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100 greatest cycling climbs of italy. a guide to the famous mountains of the giro d'italia and beyond. simon warren. little brown book group softback. 238pp illus. £12.99

100 greatest cycling climbs of italy - simon warren

with dave stoller, in 'breaking away', it was masi; with me it was colnago. and there's every likelihood, if you'll pardon my misappropriating a fictional back story, that dave was little better informed over the reason behind his obsession with italiana than was i. or, to be perfectly honest, than am i. though i still own a couple of colnagos from an earlier period than that featured on the cover of rouleur's desire special, i still drool over any campagnolo groupset and have harboured continual arguments with myself whether i should go ahead and order a campag embroidered sweatshirt.

granted, colnago and fiat are about the only two words of italian in my vocabulary and in these modern times, italy exerts considerably less influence over the peloton than in the days of bartali, coppi, with no homegrown team currently competing at the top level. yet always hovering in the background are thoughts of chromed italian steel, tribute to which has been gloriously paid by the timeous officina battaglin release, with its pink, steel giro frameset celebrating giovanni's 1981 victory in verona. and since we are but a few stages into the 2019 giro d'italia, any discussion involving the words 'pink' and 'bicycles' is surely wholly appropriate?

100 greatest cycling climbs of italy - simon warren

as indeed is the publication of the latest book from the inestimable and seemingly irrepressible simon warren, the only normal human being of whom i know, able to breathe through his ears while commentating on the steepness of the climb he appears to be ascending with relative ease. it is very much in his favour that the opening page not only celebrates italy's grand tour, but is printed on a pink background. and in his paean to the giro, warren echoes the thoughts of many a sunday morning peloton.

"In our globalised age, the race now aims to emulate the worldwide appeal of the Tour, but I hope it always stays uniquely Italian, because if it didn't, it just wouldn't be the Giro,"

i am possibly one of the least qualified individuals to review this, or any other of mr warren's books, given that my home island is pretty much bereft of death-defying ascents (though any cyclist arriving by ferry at port askaig, might not agree). however, having read richard moore's 'in search of robert millar' at least twice and failed miserably to ride over the big hill at dundonald in ayrshire, i live in hope that i might be considered at least an apprentice grimpeur.

100 greatest cycling climbs of italy - simon warren

simon has already filled a box set of british climbs with eight volumes, augmented by several others, including the compellingly compulsory hellingen, describing the climbs of belgium. however, belgium was so last month; now it's 'bongiorno' time, for which it may be necessary to undertake some serious girding of loins. italy has some utterly stoaterish mountain climbs, many of which will be particularly familar to the pelotonese, the tone of which is set by the very first, colle san carlo, featuring an average gradient of 9.8% and topping out at 15%. this is probably the first book i've ever reviewed for which it may be necessary to train.

ever the teacher of note, the author precedes our lactate threshold by advising that "WARNING! One last thing before we get started. While it may be 30 degrees Celcius in the valley, that doesn't mean it won't be snowing at the top! So always, ALWAYS take a jacket."

as a self-confessed campagnolo aficionado, no matter the imposition placed on my meagre climbing skills by the other 99 ascents, the croce d'aune pretty much stopped me in my reading tracks: "This climb isn't famous for its steep gradient, its monumental length, or the part it has played in deciding the winner of the Giro d'Italia. No, this climb is famous because of one man: Tullio Campagnolo." mind you, with an maximum gradient of 13%, it's the last place you'd want your quick release skewer to give trouble, even if your fingers weren't frozen.

100 greatest cycling climbs of italy - simon warren

each climb offers a succinct précis of its features, including altitude, average and maximum gradient, along with the height gain, a graphic profile, location thumbnail and simon's description of the purgatory to be endured. he's also helpfully graded the climbs out of a maximum of ten (though ascents such as the zoncolan and via scanuppia (45%!) both garrner 11/10. the poggio manages 1/10) these have been presaged by a narrative account of mr warren's accumulated journeys to the boot of europe, whereby he rode and catalogued the included five-score climbs before, presumably, having to lie down in a darkened room for a month or two. it's no wonder the back cover attests to the eight years it took to complete.

for those of us more than happy to sit in a leather armchair, watching the latter stages of the giro, the colour illustrations will suffice until medical science finds a way to offer leg transplants. ride it or read it, this is brilliant, and not only because someone other than me had to do it.

tuesday 14 may 2019

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