Posts Tagged ‘Mark Cavendish’

The tifosi at the World Championships

October 4, 2013

toscana 2013 finishing gate at road race

Me and Jen are in the seating area by the finish of the World Championship road race, surrounded by hundreds of bellowing Italians. It’s the final lap of the 16.6km circuit, and they are chanting one name: “VIN-CEN-ZO! VIN-CEN-ZO!” Determined Nibali, with the hopes of the host nation resting upon him, has refused to allow Joaquim Rodriguez to escape on the descent of the Fiesole. Earlier, there were long, deep groans followed by much emphatic gesturing towards the video screens when the Giro d’Italia champion slipped on the tarmac, as if the rain’s treachery had caused a deep, personal offence to each and every one of the tifosi here in Florence. “If Nibali wins,” Jen says, stifling a laugh at the very un-British outpouring of emotion, “we’re going to have to run for cover.” I get the feeling we may have to do the same even if he doesn’t…

Such passion is a contrast to four days earlier when polite applause greeted the competitors as they turned into the corner of the time trial circuit that took them north away from the bank of the Arno. Marco Pinotti got a big cheer, as did podium boys Cancellara, Wiggins and Martin, but that was about it. A bewildered Japanese lady got Jen to explain to her how a time trial works after enquiring in broken English if the event was “a European match”; a British woman who had probably wandered down the road from the Uffizi asked two men if they could move out of the way so she could take a picture (the tabards should have been a giveaway: they were press photographers, dear). It’s fair to say these were not big cycling fans.

But seated here at the incongruously named Nelson Mandela forum, it’s clear we are among those who know their Fabians from their Nairos. When Mark Cavendish slows down at the 150m sign moments before becoming one of the 146 riders to abandon, the Italian crowd instantly give the former world champ a rapturous round of applause; some even stand up for him. (A side note on Cav: I would love to know what an annoyed-looking Geraint Thomas said to the Manxman around half an hour into the race as Great Britain needlessly wasted their energy leading the peloton on the 100km-run to the finishing circuit.) One fan who gets to his feet is a testy blond fella in the front row who is not at all pleased that some of those in the crowd from the seats behind him are now politely jostling for space by the barrier. At one point he has a loud argument with one of the attendants. I’d like to tell him he should cool it: he’s in the one sheltered area of the circuit, unlike the poor wet sods on the other side of the road who have to endure diluvial conditions for hours. But I don’t speak Italian, and he’s got a Vinokourov-like pugnacity about him, so I don’t.

The haves and the have-nots: we have a roof, these poor drenched souls do not.

The haves and the have-nots: we have a roof, these poor drenched souls do not.

Each time the race rushes towards us, I experience a measure of what it must have been like when the first cinema audiences saw the Lumiere brothers’ locomotive seemingly burst out of the screen. One second they are televisual images, the next they are right in front of us, like Morten Harket stepping out of his rectangular, one-dimensional prison into the real world. By the time poor Purito becomes flesh and blood for the last time, it’s clear he is about to lose. The Italians yell and cheer, but they’ve stopped banging on the barriers. There’s a sullen silence moments after Rui Costa raises his arms in victory and then everyone begins to shuffle off, except for the Italian Vinokourov. He’s staring into the distance, making a quintessentially Italian hand gesture: thumb, index finger and middle finger pinched together, tapping the side of his head. The azzuri: what were they thinking? Minutes later, as Jen and I trudge with the crowd under the finishing gate, I want to know what the tifosi are thinking too.

A new list of professional cyclists’ nicknames

February 22, 2013
A Manxman astride a missile

A Manxman astride a missile

A reporter at the newspaper I work for once asked me if Mark Cavendish had a nickname. Cav had just won the BBC Sports Personality Of The Year award, and my journalist chum wanted a catchy handle to pep up his report of the event. So I told him, yes, Mark Cavendish does indeed have a nickname. It is the Manx Missile.

“Really?” said the reporter.

“Yes, really,” I said.

“That is BRILLIANT! Thank you!”

His cycling knowledge is negligible and he was up against a deadline, so he was grateful I had helped to fill a small hole in his copy. And he realised that most of his readers, even though they may have very little interest in cycling, would like Cav’s nickname too. It’s got pizazz. It’s leavened with humour. It sticks in the mind.

Sadly, The Manx Missile is one of cycling’s few memorable current nicknames. Off the top of my head, I can only think of three others that are similarly energised: Tornado Tom, El Pistolero and Spartacus. And this is a sport that, once upon a time, effortlessly produced stacks of classic calling cards such as The Cannibal, The Heron, The Angel of the Mountains, and The Eagle of Toledo. Where oh where have all the good names gone?

To remedy this paucity, I am now starting this alphabetical list of professional cyclists’ nicknames, each of which I have made up (except for Edvald Boassen Hagen’s, which Mrs Dynamite will have to answer for). I’ll add more as I think of them. No rider is too obscure, nor any moniker too daft, so please feel free to email me any further suggestions to dancehippocleides at mac dot com or leave a comment below.

Let the sobriquet-fest begin!

NAME: Edvald Boasson Hagen
NICKNAME: Boobs-And-Hard-On
WHY: Some say “BWA-son Hagen”, others say “Bo-AH-son Hagen”, whereas Mrs Dynamite prefers to say “Boobs-And-Hard-On”. Or “Boobs” for short. Yes, it’s a bit rude, but then so are the sort of films you would stereotypically associate with the Scandinavian’s home region, so at least it’s appropriate in that sense. Besides, we can go back to calling him The Boss when he actually gets round to winning big.

NAME: Enrico Gasparotto
NICKNAME: The Poacher
WHY: The finishing line will not grace the crest of the Cauberg for the Amstel Gold in April, so this particular nickname is a means of drawing attention to 2012’s thrilling hilltop climax at a race that is often overshadowed by its Belgian one-day counterparts. Oscar Freire, alone at the front with less than one kilometre to go, looked like he might just take the win. Then Philippe Gilbert leapt out of the bunch to get within touching distance of the fading Spaniard – victory, surely, was soon to be his. But suddenly Peter Sagan, one of the three men who Gilbert had taken with him, now appeared to have the edge… only for a lesser-celebrated rider from Astana to pass the Slovak as Jelle Vanendert banged his handlebars in frustration. Hardy Classics veterans and young up-and-commers were both denied. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you poach a win.

NAME: José Rujano
NICKNAME: The Merlin of Merida
WHY: Giro high-flyer Rujano and Robert Gesink have both been referred to as The Condor, thereby contravening the fundamental nickname rule that all appellations should be as individual as the riders to whom they are assigned. Thankfully, Merlins can be found flying at high altitude in the compact climber’s home state of Merida, so the little Venezuelan need never be confused with a lanky Dutchman ever again.

NAME: Ian Stannard
NICKNAME: The Iron Man
WHY: This one is based on a Dutch commentator’s mispronunciation of the GB hardman’s name, which he rendered as “Iron Stannard” over the tannoy at the 2012 World Road Race Championships in the Netherlands. And what better name than Iron Man to express the doughty domestique’s indefatigability? Like the titular character in Ted Hughes’ children’s story, he’s quite a tall fella and, as the shredded legs of his rivals can surely attest, he too leaves a trail of destruction in his wake.

NAME: Geraint Thomas
NICKNAME: G-Force
WHY: Speaking to Cycling magazine last month, Team Sky’s coaching guru Shane Sutton said of the young Welshman: “‘G’ has got it all. He can climb, time trial and last the distance.” In short, he’s a future Tour contender. He’s a force to be reckoned with. He is… G-Force.

NAME: Thomas Voeckler
NICKNAME: Le Mighty Bouche
WHY: The man with the quintessentially Gallic gob-shape is awarded a nickname which alludes to Britain’s most theatrical comedy act. He licks his supposedly dehydrated lips en route to taking the yellow jersey, he frowns as he toils up a mountain, and he beams on the podium like a delighted kid. Yes, in cycling, the legs do the talking – but in Voeckler’s case, so does his mouth.

Lance falling

October 11, 2012

Nine years ago, Jen and I went to a bar on the Haymarket, had a few drinks, met some fellow cycling fans and watched Lance Armstrong fall off his bike. The famous tumble on the road to Luz Ardiden caused by a spectator’s musette caught in Armstrong’s handlebars had taken place earlier that day, although we hadn’t turned up with the intention of watching the yellow jersey and Iban Mayo have a whoops-a-daisy. We didn’t even know it had happened – both of us had been at work, Twitter hadn’t been invented yet, and mainstream news outlets didn’t give a toss. The reason why we went to watch a big screen at a West End watering hole had something to do with engaging in what was a unique experience for us in 2003: being in a room with other bicyclepeople who liked watching bicycle races. Because we knew very few people who did.

The shindig at the Sports Café was organised by Phil Cavell and Julian Wall of Bikepark in Covent Garden, which later evolved into Cyclefit, the business which is more or less responsible for bicycle fitting becoming a standard part of the bike-buying process. Paul Callinan, who had chatted to me at the Hillingdon circuit when I tentatively started racing, was among those attending. A few months later, after Bikepark stepped down from organising its two popular weekend group rides, Paul and a couple of friends would seize the momentum by reviving a name that Jules had coined in the mid-nineties for the early incarnation of his shop’s team – and so it came to pass that the all-new London Dynamo, which started life as a discussion in Paul’s kitchen, became a phenomenon that swiftly (and inadvertently) grew to be bigger than every long-established club in the south-east. Also propping up the bar on that July evening was Nick Peacock (he later sold me his Merlin frame after he became Dynamo’s second club captain, although I think we didn’t get round to speaking to each other that night) and triathlete-turned-demon-time-trialist Martin Williamson, one of many kindly ’Mos who gave me a lift to races during my first season as a non-car-owning fourth cat. But that night we were all more or less strangers to each other.

So there we all were, the many and varied chums of Bikepark, watching Armstrong fall off, get back up, wallop his groin into his top tube as he came out of his pedal and then solo away to victory. Chapeau! Except no one exclaimed “Chapeau!” or “Hat!” because it hadn’t occurred to any of us yet that pretension or irony had a place in cycling. The mood was more of muted amazement rather than the whooping, roaring enthusiasm you now get at Look Mum No Hands! during an eventful moment of a big race. This was fascination before it evolved into fandom. And we all know the aspects of Armstrong’s story that fascinated us: beating cancer and then beating everyone, a singular character with a single ball. Personally, I loved watching his movements on the bike, swaggering when he was out of the saddle, and the robotic, propulsive, high cadence when he was seated – a contained, measured ferocity. Yet most of the conversations that night weren’t about Armstrong or pro cycling, but about our own, more modest, adventures: where we had been riding, where we planned to ride or race, each of us glimpsing the others’ characters and experience (invariably much greater than mine) by learning about their cycling history.

And when Dynamo began, I still didn’t know who my riding chums actually were. They each had a name, a bike and stories about their riding, all of which helped to identify the less vocal members who dwelt beneath the ubiquitous mask of helmet and sunglasses, but the life they lived beyond our weekly 50-mile training loop across the Surrey Hills was a distant vista. Before setting out one Sunday, Paul muttered wearily to me about having practically no sleep because he had been on call all night. Ah-ha, I thought – a doctor! It took a while for me to discover that he actually worked in IT for a bank, and being on call involved piping zeroes and ones to the Far East in the early hours of the morning. But at least I knew his name – I can still recall the delight at discovering “Nicholas Peacock” on the finishing list of Dynamo’s inaugural Beginners’ Series race, because the surname was part of a long-standing in-joke between myself and Jen. (And as it’s a slightly bizarre gag which isn’t aimed at Nick, it’s probably best Jen and I keep it to ourselves…)

Dynamos were Dynanonymous to each other – but the one name everyone knew, whether they had a rich history of riding or had just started out, was Lance Armstrong. There was a unique combination of factors that led to Dynamo confounding a British Cycling official’s prediction to Paul that we would probably attract a total of around two dozen members: as the only club to have a regular ride in the cycling mecca of Richmond Park, we were conspicuous; we welcomed all-comers; we were, and still are, a friendly bunch; and, in a major departure from the aesthetic of the time, our jersey didn’t comprise a clumsy mélange of fonts and colours or resemble something an estate agent might hammer onto a stick. But I think the main reason why Dynamo grew so rapidly was due to a pool of new, unaffiliated riders who had recently taken up the sport after an English-speaking athlete had caught their attention by repeatedly winning the Tour de France. Armstrong was the key that unlocked the entrance to a previously clandestine world – and if he could get on a bike after what he had been through, then why couldn’t you?

So the blue train of the US Postal Service team unwittingly begat a blue, black and orange locomotive – although it is there that the parallels, like two diesels thundering towards each other, must screech to a halt. I can dimly remember a line in Procycling magazine claiming that Armstrong-related catchphrases such as “No chain! No chain!” and “How d’you like them apples?” had become de rigueur on club runs – and oh, how I cringed, because from my experience of Dynamo, amateur cycling didn’t take hero worship or wish fulfillment to those extremes. Talking about Armstrong, or pro cycling generally, was an excuse for men (sadly, there were only men in those days) to indulge in the necessary human act of gossiping, sharing our awe about feats that had amazed us, trading information, often as a means of trying to work out who would do what the next time around. Would Jan Ullrich ever win another Tour? Could winning the Dauphiné prove to be a poison chalice for the Texan? And, inevitably, along came the only question that never went away: do you think Lance is clean?

Fast forward a few years, and half a dozen ’Mos are sitting on one of the benches outside the Roehampton Gate café in Richmond Park after the Parkride. I’m one of them; two others are also long-standing members (although they’re not the Dynamos I mentioned earlier). Armstrong has decided not to contest the US Anti-Doping Agency’s case against him, and the consensus around the table is that, as a result, no one will truly know if the man stripped of his seven Tour wins ever cheated. Most think the case should never have been pursued because it happened a long time ago, everyone was at it, and USADA doesn’t have any authority in the matter anyway. One Dynamo calls USADA boss Travis Tygart “Travis Dickface”.

Well, Mr Dickface does have the authority, and USADA’s 200-page report released yesterday, featuring damning testimony from every American Tour rider who rode for USPS and Discovery, may convince the doubting Dynamos I listened to that morning. Perhaps I should have pointed them in the direction of the truth: there were some professional cyclists who asked Tygart to sit in as an observer when they were questioned as part of the original federal investigation into USPS – so USADA had to pursue the allegations, because this is what they are funded to do. Anything less would have been corrupt.

But I didn’t say anything. And I’m pleased I kept my trap shut, because the opinions I heard that morning were not those of diehard fans desperately clutching at straws; they were an expression of disconnection from a complicated story that has been twisting and turning for years. True, a few of my cycling chums have followed the slow, inexorable exposure of the EPO years, but they tend to be the minority whose interest in pro cycling began prior to Armstrong’s appearance. I get the impression that most of the cyclists I know have simply not followed the diffuse trail of whispers and nose-tapping which has been played out mostly on fan sites and forums. They’re not angry or disappointed about Armstrong’s fall from grace, because they’ve not been exposed to much of those areas of the internet where anger and disappointment reigns. Threads on our own forum these days about tyre choice, groupsets or any other quotidian aspect of bike riding dwarf those about Armstrong, while the full-throated, joyful cheers we’ve given to Wiggins, Cavendish and other home-grown heroes are more passionate, more engaged than the interest anyone had showed for the Texan. One reason for that enthusiasm is that the likes of Wiggo and Cav are British, and their Olympic exploits were performed on roads we’ve all ridden. Another reason, of course, is that the performances have become more believable.

So let’s remember the Tour de France 1999-2005 in this way: lots of people took loads of drugs and did some amazing things, and we all had a good time witnessing them. But like the big screen looming over our conversations that night at the Sports Café, Armstrong’s adventures have proved to be just the background noise to our own experiences on bicycles. It’s not about the bike rider who brought us together – if, indeed, it ever was.

Tea de France: week four and the Tea GC

July 22, 2012

Stage 19, Saturday 21 June
Bonneval – Chartres (ITT), 53.5km
Winner: Bradley Wiggins (Sky)
Brew: Fruits Rouge Wu Long
They say: “Raspberry and wild strawberry flavors. Low in caffeine.”
We say: Yeah, sure – it’s just raspberry and strawberry, like Wiggins’ time trial victory was just pedaling and a funny helmet. The brief description above doesn’t do justice to the full, rollicking ride this tea takes you on. Open the sachet and whompf – we’re rolling down the ramp with a fizzing raspberry aroma. Empty it in the pot, pour in the water and you’re settling in to the scent of wet earth. Then comes the long, steady brewing section (at a recommended time of seven minutes, this was the longest wait of all our teas) followed by a woody taste hitting the finish line at the back of your palate. Bravo!

Stage 20, Sunday 22 July
Rambouillet – Paris Champs-Élysées, 120km
Winner: Mark Cavendish (Sky)
Brews: Pu Er Imperial and Dong Ding
They say: Pu Er: “A very fine crop, with many buds for this very particular type of tea. Its powerful scent is reminiscent of damp soil and bark. Its name means ‘trouser bottom’. A Chinese folk tale tells how the tea pickers keep the best leaves for themselves, hiding them in their pockets before taking them home with them. Pu Er tea is highly regarded in Chinese medicine for its curative properties. It lowers cholesterol levels, they say, it dissolves fats, helps digestion, improves blood circulation and lowers the effects of alcohol. This tea improves with age, owing to the specific type of fermentation that affects the tannins.”
Dong Ding: “This tea which grows on the eponymous mountain, means ‘Icy peak’. It is considered by tea lovers to be one of Taiwan’s best. The leaf, which is pearly and moderately fermented, gives the liqueur a particular yellow-orange colour that is unique in the world of tea. Its scent is both silky and lively, its taste recalls the flowery side of the little fermented Wu Long (oolong) teas and also that of the fruitier, woodier Fancy teas. An exceptional crop.”
We say: The final day of the Tour is supposed to be simple: a procession into Paris, a crit on the Champs Élysées and we’re done. If only the last section of our tea odyssey had been as straightforward. Pu Er, while in the packet, smells more like ordinary tea than all the other brews we’ve had. Add hot water and the scent is transformed: we’re in a wood-paneled room that retains the oddly comforting aroma of old cigarette smoke. A sip reveals that it actually tastes like tobacco, too. A few more gulps of this red-tinged oddity and we’ve acclimatised. I have a second cup; Jen passes. We decide to give Dong Ding a spin and our opinions become more sharply divided: I think it has a gassy odour, while the taste reminds me of farts and wet, miserable afternoons in Balham; Jen smells the perfumes Opium and Amarige and tastes… well, nothing really. But at least we both agree that Dong Ding is a bit of a clanger.

The Tea GC
It’s been a historic three weeks of racing, and an incredible four weekends of drinking teas. Now we reveal which brews are our Wiggins, Froome and Nibali.
Third place: Thé des Moines. Light, calming, floral. A delight.
Second place: Thé du Hammam. Creamy, vanilla-like, echoes of Earl Grey. And it leaves a mild tingle on your tongue.
First place: Margaret’s Hope. Malty with a rich, woody aftertaste. Deep and enriching. A classic.

So there you have it. Our tea journey has been drained to the very dregs. If you fancy some of the brews me and Jen have been tasting, have a look at Le Palais Des Thés. Happy supping!

A few brief observations on Marina Hyde’s dislike of the BBC Sports Personality Of The Year Award

December 8, 2011

1. Writing in the Guardian, Marina Hyde says women shouldn’t care too much that there are no female athletes on the shortlist for the BBC Sports Personality Of The Year because it’s always been a naff, unmeritocratic irrelevancy. Well, you could argue that all big, glitzy televised awards ceremonies have an aura of naffness and feature some nominees who don’t deserve to be shortlisted, but I don’t think anyone would argue on that basis that it would be OK to have no female nominees at, say, the Oscars or the BRIT Awards. I’m not sure why SPOTY should be any different.

2. Nigel Mansell won it twice and – ha ha! – he doesn’t even have a personality – right, ladies!? So a reasonable conclusion might be that the award’s name is simply a misnomer: it’s a recognition of achievement rather than a celebration of personality. Which brings us to…

3. Mark Cavendish. Marina is not a fan of the manner British Cycling has chosen to drum up support for one of this country’s few world champions, which she calls “Oscars-style campaigning”. So is BC running a slick campaign worthy of Hollywood’s arch machinators? Because it seems to me that it’s nothing more than a modest social media wheeze to get fans voting. I wrote a while ago about how British newspapers covered Cav’s move to Sky: the popular press gave it barely a mention, while the broadsheets provided prominent coverage, which may have been because of the half-page adverts for Sky which accompanied their reports. So overall, the approach of sports editors was to more or less ignore the event because they thought no one would be interested (the red-tops) or print, perhaps, what advertisers wanted to see (the broadsheets). In this context, SPOTY is an opportunity for cycling fans to provide a truer representation of Cav’s popularity, just by picking up the phone or pressing their red button on the night. So not unmeritocratic, or naff: just a small, good way of redressing the balance.

4. Marina Hyde admits that she churned out a piece three years ago praising SPOTY, so she could well be talking bollocks for the sake of it this time as well.

5. The hashtag for that there Twitter, should you choose to use it, is #CAV4SPOTY.

Let’s all have a look at how much coverage Cav’s move to Sky got in this morning’s papers.

October 12, 2011

Yesterday on Twitter, The Inner Ring mused thusly:

“Whilst we’re all going, ‘Yeah, so what’, millions of ordinary TV viewers and newspaper readers will get the Cav to Sky story today/tomorrow. It’s these people whom most team sponsors count on in order to justify their investment in a team, reaching households across Europe and beyond.”

This got me thinking. Yes, the papers will all run the story, but would the British newspaper readers of tomorrow (i.e. literally tomorrow, not some undefined point in the future – d’ya get me, yeh?) even notice it? Because it’s not as if he won a race or anything, and the move was widely reported in various sports pages months before yesterday’s official announcement. They might not give it any prominence, which would be a shame for the team’s sponsors, because as Mr Ring points out, they require the exposure. Then tomorrow (i.e. today) came along and I was able to find out for myself, via my eyes and – let’s not forget – my hands, which helped turn the correct pages. I really couldn’t have done it without these guys, and they did an incredible job.

Anyhoo, the good news is that (clockwise from top left) The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, The Times and The Independent all gave the story half a page. Perhaps not coincidentally, all of them also had a half-page ad for Team Sky and British Cycling underneath.

Which raises two questions: would all four broadsheets have given as much prominence to the story if Sky hadn’t paid for a large-ish ad which complements the editorial? And, less importantly, don’t you think the layout of the pages – Cav on top, Wiggins below – unwittingly suggests what may be the billing of the two Sky men next year?

The redtops all buried the story to varying extents at the back of their sports pages. The Sun, owned by Cavendish’s new paymasters, had the largest of the smaller stories, giving it seven paragraphs plus a pic at the top of page 67. The Mirror has four pars and a headshot of Cav at the bottom of page 56, while the Daily Star, masters of economy, managed to convey the news in a mere 65 words on page 49.

You could say that the prominence each paper gave to the story reflects its readership’s interest in cycling. But look at the Daily Mail – next to the paper’s brief, 80-word story on page 76 is a ragout of its June exclusive, “GB DREAM TEAM, Cavendish in shock move to join Wiggins.”

It was a page lead – perhaps the strongest indication that Cav’s move would’ve got bigger coverage this time round had the story not dragged on for four months.

The DYNAMITE! Five: The week in cycling, remixed. Issue #19

September 30, 2011

5 UP Tim Vine
“See these Icebreakers? Don’t work. Tried to use one to start a conversation and the guy just walked away.” Boom, and indeed, tish! And so, with a chortlesome quip about a high-end brand of merino base layer, comedian Tim Vine began a short routine at the Pearson Performance store on Friday evening which united the two aspects of life most precious to this blog: cycling and light-hearted wordplay. Hurrah! The one-liner wonderman, who is a childhood chum of owners Will and Guy, made our week with his puntastic appearance in East Sheen, although we’re not going to quote the rest of his routine: this is our blog, and we make the jokes around here (even though they are sub-standard by comparison).

4 UP Newreaders
Staying at the launch of the excellent new Pearson store, one interesting nugget that we picked up which may already be common knowledge among the bikerati is that ITV’s Dermot Murnaghan and Matt Barbet of Channel 5 fame regularly go out riding together. Two TV anchormen, sat next to each other on their bikes, talking away for hours: you know what they probably get up to, don’t you? The pair of them (in The DYNAMITE! Files’ head, anyway) chat to each other as if they’re doing a news broadcast, live from the hills of Surrey. Let’s turn on the vivid HDTV of our imagination and watch… “Good afternoon and thanks for joining us. Coming up: a tight left-hander. Over now to Matt Barbet. Matt, tell us what’s happening.” “Thanks, Dermot. We’re getting unconfirmed reports of a major pothole. Oof! Yes, I can now confirm a pothole has been encountered. Back to you, Dermot.” And so on, for the course of 70 to 100 miles. Possibly.

3 DOWN David Harmon
Still at the launch night of Pearson Performance (can you tell this blog doesn’t get out much?) we were disappointed that the World Championships prevented Eurosport commentator and Richmond Park regular David Harmon from attending. One Pearson partygoer reckons the man behind the mic sounds a little different when off-air and isn’t immediately recognisable, so we had a great way to identify him should he have turned up: “accidentally” drop a glass of bubbly and wait for the one person in the room to say: “Oh no! There’s been a crash! Oh, disaster! This is terrible!” Would’ve worked a treat. Maybe next time, eh?

2 UP Pat McQuaid
The Dalai Lama. Barack Obama. Nelson Mandela. Men of character and wisdom, whose achievements are so great that they truly deserve to have an in-depth 15,000-word feature written about them in a publication of record. And now you can add, er, Pat McQuaid to that august list, because the UCI president is the subject of a Grand Tour-sized question-and-answer session in the forthcoming issue of (what else?) Rouleur. It’s all in there: the Armstrong donations, the accusations of nepotism and why, despite what any of us may think, it’s apparently quite important to have a WorldTour race in China. But perhaps the most intriguing revelation is that Uncle Pat used to lurk on internet forums to see what cycling fans have been saying about him. BikeRadar: your hotline to Aigle. Who would have thought?


1 UP Mark Cavendish, Champion Of The World
It’s something you probably never thought you’d see: “Peta, 24, from Essex”, purportedly quoting Goethe on page three of The Sun as she analyses the euro bailout (“Everything in the world may be endured, except continued prosperity,” apparently). Meanwhile, tucked away on page 62 of the same newspaper, there was a brief report on her boyfriend – someone called Mark Cavendish – being crowned cycling’s world road race champion, making him the first Brit to win the men’s title in 46 years. So judging by the difference in column inches between Cav and his girlfriend in Britain’s biggest-selling newspaper, it would appear that the giddy dream posited by an excitable question from the BBC – “Could cycling become the UK’s second-favourite sport?” – is a long way from becoming a reality. But let’s look at it another way: how, you may ask, is the question in any way relevant? Does the popularity of a sport automatically make it more successful or interesting? Because anyone who saw Sunday’s thrilling race in Copenhagen or read Richard Williams’ analysis in the Guardian would realise that British riders are now officially amazing – super-strong, tactically astute and ruddy fast – and they became brilliant while the majority of the British public wasn’t paying any attention. Which makes their achievement all the more special, doesn’t it?

The DYNAMITE! Five: The week in cycling, remixed. Issue #18

September 23, 2011

5 UP Evolta the Panasonic robot
What’s an Ironman? It’s just a marathon, sandwiched between a swim and a run. Anyone could do it. Sure, you’d take much, much longer to reach the finish line than someone who thinks sleeveless jerseys are more a way of life than an ill-advised wardrobe decision, but hey – you’d get there eventually, you’d have a never-to-be-repeated personal best, and ultimately doing it is what really counts, right? Of course it is. Which is why non-triathletes all over the world should be inspired by little Evolta, the foot-high Japanese robo-child who announced on Sunday that he’ll be doing the 230km Hawaii Ironman next month over the course of a week, powered by nothing more than three triple-A batteries. Yes, his bike has stabilisers, but at least he doesn’t have two bottles parked next to his bottom like his dorky human counterparts. And unlike Evolta, we bet none of them have ever scaled the Grand Canyon, cycled the Le Mans 24-hour course, and had a Banzai!-style short film made about them. Ironmen: out-awesomed by a tiny plastic boy. The shame of it.

4 DOWN Shred West
There we were on Sunday in our famous soundproof bunker, watching Mark Cavendish blast past four riders to win the final stage of the Tour of Britain, when a question occurred to us: is this the first time that ITV4 co-presenter Yanto Barker has been involved in the world of sportscasting? So we googled him and… er, hold on. That’s a joke, right? Surely no one would actually give their magazine a title that’s a pun on the name of a serial murderer? Well, apparently so: mountain bike mag Shred really did produce an offshoot publication called – yes! – Shred West, one issue of which features Yanto on the cover. Killer concept, fellas!

3 DOWN Penny-farthings
It’s probably the fastest-growing type of bike racing in the country (on the basis that barely anyone can ride them, so just a few more participants represents a huge percentage jump) but the BBC had some bad news on Wednesday for eager daredevils looking to become a penny-farthing racer: Leicestershire firm Cycle Magic has sold out of its first batch. Although with only three races a year in the UK, you’ve got probably got enough time to wait for the second load. Hurrah!

2 DOWN Surrey Police
Red faces all round for Surrey police, which last week provided a perfect lesson in how not to do community policing. Commenting on Cycling Weekly’s story on the force’s questionable response to the increased popularity of cycling in the area, Inspector Terri Poulton apologised on Friday for “blunt” and “inappropriate” leaflets handed out to riders around Box Hill threatening them with a £1,000 fine if they rode without due care and attention. Insp. Poulton revealed that the ungrammatical notices were “produced by a local officer who genuinely thought it would be helpful. We live and learn!” Let’s hope so…

1 UP Friendliness
As a counterpoint to the heavy-handedness of coppers in Mole Valley, a pleasing snippet from Tuesday’s Guardian: membership of cycling clubs in Britain has increased by more than 10 per cent during the last two years, taking the total to 82,000. But what clever marketing tools have those devious pedallers used to increase their numbers? Why, if it wasn’t those familiar bedfellows of friendliness and inclusiveness. If only they were not so happy and welcoming, then club runs might not be as well-attended, and motorists would be less likely to complain to the Surrey police force about having to slow down. Damn you, friendly cyclists!

The DYNAMITE! Five: The week in cycling, remixed. Issue #15

September 2, 2011

5 UP Scarborough
Readers of the Scarborough Evening News are revolting. Through the medium of the paper’s website, a handful of scathing Scarborians have made it perfectly clear that they do not want to see Cannon and Ball or any other light entertainment act of yesteryear playing at a local venue called, apparently without irony, the Futurist. But, you may be thinking, the stars of “video best seller” Boys In Blue are surely the best entertainment that a northern seaside town can attract these days. Or maybe not – for if you look into the distance, you will see a colourful, 396-legged beast approaching the seafront. Yes, chums, the Tour de France, the actual Grahnd Boo-cull itself, is coming to sunny Scarborough! In 2016! Well, that’s the idea anyway, and apparently Mark Cavendish has backed the plan. The Manxman will no doubt be touched by one reader’s concern for the riders’ well-being: apparently “the thought of how much damage the cobbles on the Marine Drive could do the cyclists’ delicate bottoms is best not dwelt on”. Ouch.

4 UP (not literally, of course) Peta Todd’s bum
Dwelling for a moment longer on the delightful topic of rear ends, Cav was quick to point out on Tuesday that his pin-up girlfriend Peta Todd was unhappy that he tweeted a picture of her bending over in a pair of shorts. In these sorts of situations, the fella involved usually realises his error and swiftly deletes the offending photo – but it’s been up for three days now, so maybe she wasn’t that angry after all. The DYNAMITE! Files recommends having a butcher’s at the pic – purely, of course, to judge for yourself whether it’s a bit pervy or not. And if you decide it’s the former, we hope you are thoroughly ashamed of yourself.

3 DOWN Ghulam Murtza
Ugly scenes below the line of the Telegraph and Daily Mail websites, where the “haven’t-the-police-got-anything-better-to-do” brigade slugged it out with the “law-is-the-law” mob following the unusual case of 26-year-old Ghulam Murtza. The taxi driver was fined £100 for transporting his two-year-old son Armaan on his mountain bike, which seemed unfair as the two-year-old was in a safety-approved child seat, albeit secured with additional duct tape which may have made the contraption look a bit Heath Robinson. In the words of the East Staffordshire police, was he simply “well-meaning but misguided”? Maybe. But one thing’s for sure: if you’re going to pose for a photo to show that your son is perfectly safe, it’s not a great idea to have his helmet on back-to-front, loosely secured and at a slightly wonky angle…

2 UP Bikes with guns
What did the prognosti-
cators of 1910 think our modes of conveyance would be in the year 2000? According to an intriguing set of drawings which The DYNAMITE! Files stumbled upon this week, the answer is electric skates, aerial boats lifted by twin balloons, and trains that look a bit like houses. Sadly, to judge by its omission, the humble bicycle will have died out, although there would have been motorbikes with machine guns, which would’ve made the daily commute more interesting. Particularly if you were cut up by a heavily-armed car.

1 DOWN Bangers
Be honest: you love a good sausage now and again. Not even the image of Christine Hamilton sticking one in her gob can put you off. But apparently the traditional banger would be one of the gastronomic pleasures denied to you if you practise the trade of a professional cyclist in Italy, because strict Italian team bosses really do take the biscuit, as well as the jam tart, the chocolate chip cookies and the cake supplies, and then lock them all in a big cupboard marked “NO FUN”. In a remarkably candid entry in his Velonation blog, Ben Greenwood revealed on Monday that the Italian team he rode for in 2007 made him disturbingly weight-obsessed, and the regime of constant dieting, like all authoritarian regimes, ultimately became a farcical game of cat-and-mouse. “One time,” recalls the Rapha Condor Sharp rider, “the woman who cooked for us did us sausages as a treat. During dinner the [team] president arrived, so our cook shouted at us to hide the sausages quick before he saw them.” Which must surely count as the most literal and least enjoyable game of “hide the sausage” ever played.

The DYNAMITE! Five: The week in cycling, remixed. Issue #13

August 19, 2011

5 UP Kurt Asle Arvesen
You’d never guess who we saw down the road the other day. Kurt Asle Arvesen. Yes, THE Kurt Asle Arvesen – how many Asle Arvesens are there, fer chrissakes? Kurt Asle Arvesen, Norwegian multiple Grand Tour stage winner, was briefly outside Tasty’s kebab and burger bar by the roundabout at the junction of Fulham Road and Fulham Palace Road on Sunday. Yes, alright, he was participating in the London-Surrey Cycle Classic at the time, and the chasing pack was about to thwart his brief, last-gasp attack six miles from the finish. But still, one of the most accomplished cyclists in the world, with dozens of other pros in his wake, transforming an unremarkable corner of south-west London into a glorious rush of speed and colour – it’s like seeing Green Lantern and Superman having a pint down Wetherspoon’s, or walking through King’s Cross station and stumbling across the Hogwarts Express. Transforming the quotidian into the quite extraordinary: this is cycling’s peculiar magic, lost on the quibblers and whingers who took issue with having a test-run for next year’s Olympic road race in their backyard. But let’s not let their presence cloud our opening item – we’ll come back to them later, paying particular attention to one portly Irish TV presenter and a curious twist provided by one of his telly chums…

4 DOWN Ted Baillieu
On the subject of extraordinary images, The DYNAMITE! Files can well imagine an old, creaking wooden ship conveying Cadel Evans across the seas like an exotic spice to deliver him to his homeland. In truth, however, the gap of almost two weeks between the Cuddlator winning the Tour de France and his triumphant return to Melbourne on Friday could probably be explained by the round of criteriums and sponsor-related obligations that are usually part of a champion’s lot. That 12-day period appears to have been long enough for local politician Ted Baillieu to dispense with the notion that yellow is a hard colour to wear, especially if you’re standing next to a man who earned the right to adorn himself with that same hue by winning the hardest race in the world. But Ted Baillieu’s yellow shirt and yellow tie combo has now set a fantastic precedent: if, in 12 months’ time, Nick Clegg isn’t standing outside number 10 in a gold lamé suit shaking the hand of new Olympic champion Mark Cavendish, then it will be a major breach of protocol. Mark our words.

3 UP The Assos gatecrasher
Returning to the festival of fun that was the London-Surrey Cycle Classic, it is fitting that the Olympic route encompasses Richmond Park, the unofficial home of London cycling. It is a democratic arena which welcomes the young and the old, the whippets and the whupped alike – so well done to the anonymous, Assos-clad fella who somehow smuggled himself into the peloton to proudly represent the body shape of the less sporty park user. Not even the stares of the nonplussed pros could diminish his jollity. Bravo, sir!

2 UP Cav and Millar’s little secret
What was the “INCREDIBLE news” Mark Cavendish received from David Millar shortly after the Manxman won on the Mall? Has Millar’s autobiography reached the top spot in the Waterstone’s chart? Have the two raconteurs agreed to do a series of head-to-head banterthons, in the style of Alas Smith And Jones? Or is the Scotsman really having Cav’s baby? Here’s our theory: the Manxman is off to Garmin-Cervelo because Sky was unable to match Jonathan Vaughters’ offer of an unlimited supply of his favourite sausages. You heard it here first, chums.

1 DOWN Zora Suleman

Never heard of former breakfast TV gawp magnet Zora Suleman? You’re not alone, because The DYNAMITE! Files was also unaware of her existence until she interposed herself between the considerable bulk of her chum Eamonn Holmes and the righteous ire of tweeting cyclepeople. The row began when sofa-dwelling Eamonn blamed “flamin Olympic bikes”, rather than his inability to plan ahead and make alternative travel plans, for preventing him from driving to a village fete. “Keep sport in a stadium,” he grumbled from a traffic jam on the A3 – presumably with his engine turned off, otherwise that tweet, made from his BlackBerry, is technically an offence. Given that he recently succeeded in banning mentions of his weight from a BBC comedy show, his petulance on this occasion was perhaps not entirely out of character, and he was soon rewarded with robust responses from bike racing fans all over the country (most of them retweeted by Surrey League organiser Ken Prince.) It was pointed out to the Sky presenter that he might not be singing from the same hymn sheet as his employers, who are sponsors of the British cycling team, and many people would expect a public figure to support one of the few events Britain has a chance to win gold in next year, even if the trial run does interrupt his Sunday afternoon drive. And, of course, stadium sports are a regular cause of traffic anyway, as anyone who lives near a London football ground can attest. But it was glamourous newsgatherer Ms Suleman who provided a bizarre denouement to proceedings by claiming she had been “inundated with calls” from irate members of the public who had not heard about the road closures and diversions. Well, no one claimed there wouldn’t be a few people who had escaped the reach of the TfL publicity machine, which had warned of delays for weeks. But “inundated”? Even the Daily Mail, hardly the most bike-friendly news outlet, could only attest to “some” drivers being put out. So which news outlets were “inundated” with calls? None, it seems: after being pressed, Zora admitted she is currently unemployed, and then deleted the offending tweets – although you can still see them here and here. Let’s just hope Eamonn appreciated all the hard work she put in sticking up for him!

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