Posts Tagged ‘Olympics’

Cyclists in comic form

August 30, 2013

Here are two very different comic strips I’ve enjoyed recently, both of them featuring cycling. The first is how many of us would probably like to see ourselves – a glorious phalanx of wheels and whimsy enveloping an entire city – and the other is a chuckle at the grim reality.

I’ve been meaning to write about Bicycle by Ugo Gattoni since Jen gave it to me for my birthday a couple of months ago. Inspired by the 2012 Olympics, this dialogue-free strip is a lurching cityscape featuring a bike race, drawn in a rambunctious, surreal and heavily-detailed style. I guess you might call it Richard Scarry meets Hieronymus Bosch – or you might not if, unlike me, you have a thorough working knowledge of the visual arts.

It comes in a folder and opens out into a long, double-sided poster.

bicycle gattoni open

The sprawling journey is anchored around real landmarks – Big Ben, the London Eye, Regent Street and so on – while the smaller places appear to be made up (Gattoni, who is a Frenchman, has populated his version of Britain’s capital with fictional French shops). I can spot only two references that are the exception to this rule: Nobrow, the publisher of Bicycle, and Look Mum No Hands!, which has an advertisement in a version of the cafe’s distinctive cursive script stuck on the side of the Olympic Stadium.

bicycle gattoni look mum

That gave me a kick. It’s like when Pulp did a song about Bar Italia – you have an indication that a place has left some sort of a mark on the cultural consciousness when it’s referenced in a creative work. Or maybe the Look Mum fellas simply bunged Ugo a few Euros for a plug. Obviously, I prefer the former explanation.

The second strip I’ve come across is two pages in the latest issue of the peerless Viz. In Cockney Wanker, the eponymous cabbie flies into a panic after he runs over a female cyclist. “Is she orwight?” worried Wanker asks his mate Barstard…

viz cockney wanker crash

…before it’s revealed that the “she” he’s concerned about is his beloved black cab.

viz cockney wanker cab

This isn’t really satire or any serious attempt to make a social point. The joy of Viz is watching how the narratives push the already ridiculous characters into ever-more ludicrous extremes. In this case, Wanker gets the injured cyclist to pay for the damage to his vehicle by taking her card out of her handbag and running it through his PDQ.

viz cockney wanker pdq

Sorted.

Victory this way

August 8, 2012

There was a time when I would ride my bicycle into town, thinking that the portly physique I had in those days would never be able to convey me any further. Then one day I fell in with the right crowd (long story – I’ll tell you about it another time) and found myself doing 50-mile rides around Surrey. When you combine these two distinct parts of my life, you have, broadly speaking, the collective routes of the Olympic road races and time trials.

I witnessed parts of these races by the roadside. Jen and I walked from our flat to the mini-roundabout on Fulham Palace Road, where we cheered the men’s road race rolling towards Richmond Park like a procession of dignitaries. A few days later I watched the women’s time trial in Hampton Court. But it was seeing the roads I know well on TV that had the most impact on me.

Staple Lane’s steady ascent, the hairpins on Box Hill, the punchy little climb after Box that Gilbert was the first to tackle – they are only tarmac strips bordering fields, but these are the places that broadened my perspective on how far and how hard I am able to ride. They made me. It was like seeing your first kiss, your old friends, jobs you once had – or lost – gathered together behind the Perspex screen, depersonalised by the context of the race, and all the stranger and more moving for it.

On Monday, I did my usual 70-miler through the Surrey hills. I do the same ride regularly because, regardless of whether I’m planning to race or not, losing myself for five hours a week does my mind a bit of good. I have wondered over the years why more people don’t do the same. This time, I saw the messages that fans had painted on the roads before the pros raced by. One, on Box Hill, reads: “This way to… victory”. And I like to think this kind of graffiti is a victory in itself: a permanent reminder of cyclists’ presence on these roads, and invitation for others to join us and be changed.

Making a mountain out of a Mole Valley hill

November 21, 2011

As an informed cycleperson, you would probably know what I was referring to if I constructed a headline beginning with the words “Olympic cycle route row at Box Hill”. “Yes,” you would say to yourself, “this is a story about the route for the Olympic road race. There’s a bit of a hoo-ha about restricting the number of spectators at Box Hill because of environmental concerns. In fact, some are questioning why the Olympic officials didn’t choose any one of the many other challenging hills in the Surrey area to accommodate more spectators. I wonder what’s the latest development in this long-running saga? I must read this story to find out.”

This, reader – naive, trusting reader – is not an unreasonable assumption to make. Not an unreasonable assumption at all. But, in the case of a story that appeared on the BBC website on Thursday, you’d be bang wrong, buster.

Olympic cycle route row at Box Hill sparks police patrols”. Police patrols? Are mild-mannered cyclists, emboldened by the global mood of fed-upness manifested by makeshift campsites at Wall Street and St Paul’s, now protesting about their own crisis on Mole Valley’s famed Zig-Zag? No. No, they are not. Read on, and it becomes clear that the story is actually about police telling cyclists – ordinary cyclists like, perhaps, yourself – to observe the rules of the road because they’ve had complaints from local residents. In the context of the story, there is no “row” about the Olympics. There is a suggestion that the tensions have been triggered by more cyclists coming to try out Box Hill because it is part of the Olympic route, but the police sergeant quoted seems to think otherwise: “This isn’t an issue solely of cyclists but an issue of increased visitors to Box Hill full stop.” So despite the headline and the angle of the story, The Olympics has bugger-all to do with anything.

And, as an informed cycleperson, you may also be aware of how the story about cyclists supposedly behaving badly on Box Hill first emerged. A couple of months ago, Mole Valley Police handed out leaflets warning cyclists, ungrammatically, that they would be fined £1,000 for dangerous or inattentive riding. The force later apologised for their “blunt” and “inappropriate” warnings (see number two here). These facts are absent from the BBC report.

But let’s look at it another way. Perhaps the Beeb’s headline-writer was using the word “Olympic” to mean “very big”, in a similar way that Little Chef has an “Olympic Breakfast” on its menu that wouldn’t exactly fit into the diet plan of a world-class athlete. And, once the dust has settled, maybe the police could tell us exactly how many cyclists they have had to apprehend on their patrols of Box Hill. The problem, despite the complaints, may not be Olympic-sized after all.

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!

The DYNAMITE! Five: The week in cycling, remixed. Issue #9

July 1, 2011

5 UP “Jen, London”
Stories in the Daily Mail that are reasonably sympathetic to cyclists are rarer than a tweet in the Fablish tongue that doesn’t take less than half-a-dozen reads to fully understand – so there was some surprise in The DYNAMITE! Files’ famous soundproof bunker on Thursday when we came across the tale of the dad-of-two allegedly cut up by a police car. But was Paul Brown of Hull as blameless as he makes out? He appears to have gone straight to the Mail instead of complaining to the police, and the inconclusive screengrabs taken from his helmet-cam footage have triggered a blizzard of amateur sleuthing in the comments section. The most Monk-like theory comes from “Jen, London”, who asks: “Does he look like an amateur cyclist? NO. Obviously you cannot judge by image alone, but being a cyclist myself you don’t wear expesive [sic] lycras [sic], cleats and ride a road racer if you’re going to sit in the middle of the road.” So there you have it: a Daily Mail reader who can use the word “lycra” without following it with “lout”. Although if she sees one of those non-amateurs next week, she’ll probably wonder why they’re not doing that big race in France.

4 UP Pigeons
As the excellent Inner Ring noted on Tuesday, television coverage of the Tour de France killed off the inventive, hyperbolic and often fictional manner of newspaper reporting associated with cycling’s golden age. If that grand tradition of making things up in flowery language is to make a comeback, there would have to be a sporting event that TV cameras cannot practicably access, such as a race across France where all the competitors are, say, pigeons – and as luck would have it, that’s exactly what is happening this week. See how they soar above mountains! Watch them reach speeds of up to 110mph! Except you can’t. So it’s down to students of Antoine Blondin and Henri Desgrange to unleash their powers of invention. Gentlemen, only you can transform the descendents of Speckled Jim into heroes of legend!

3 UP Bob Kemp
Interesting if somewhat far-fetched “facts” department: by next summer, every man, woman and child in Britain will have appeared in a newspaper or TV report moaning about not being able to get tickets to the Olympics, even if they didn’t apply in the first place – so hats off to the Daily Telegraph for breaking the mood of perpetual disgruntlement with Monday’s lighthearted story about Chris Hoy’s father-in-law Bob Kemp. Thrilled Bob noticed that an amount equal to the cost of four tickets for the velodrome had been taken from his account – and it was only after excitedly planning the trip down to London that he realised “Olympian Seats”, the name that appeared on his statement, was actually a store he had been to. “He got four seats alright,” said Hoy. “Four garden seats.”

2 DOWN The Cervélo S5
The unveiling of the S5 aero road bike on Wednesday prompted this expert appraisal from Cycling Weekly’s Mike Hawkins: “Regular Cervélo admirers will already understand the design language the Canadian frame manufacturer has used, as it borrows much from the P4 time trial machine.” Hmm… design language, you say? Well, as the predominantly text-based appearance of this blog shows, The DYNAMITE! Files is far from fluent in the language of design, so we are in no way fit to pass comment on the opinion that the bike is, aesthetically, a bit rubbish. But wouldn’t it be obvious even if you hadn’t ever seen a P4 that the S5 is essentially a time trial frame with drop bars? Coming next week in CW: how you must be fluent in the language of the French people to know that a restaurant is a place where you eat food and a bidon is something you shove in your gob when thirsty.

1 DOWN David Millar
He’s reinvented himself as an anti-doping advocate – and now reformed EPO user David Millar has inadvertently demonstrated the dangers of another easily available substance after he revealed exactly what he thinks of former teammate Bradley Wiggins. With the demon drug alcohol still in his system following the boozy launch of his autobiography, the hungover Garmin-Cervélo man told The Guardian’s Donald McRae that Wiggins’ lack of leadership skills has left Sky “pretty f***ed” and he would be “very surprised if [Wiggins] made the top 10 of the Tour again”. Ouch! Compare Millar’s admirably frank appraisal with his more circumspect verdict on Wiggo published the day before in the Independent (“I think the top 10 is realistic”) and the lesson becomes clear: don’t swig anything stronger than PSP22 the night before a big interview.

The DYNAMITE! Five: The week in cycling, remixed. Issue #7

June 3, 2011

5 DOWN Piercings
As Giro time trial winner David Millar topped off a fantastic week for British cyclists by showing off a pair of hipster specs in a post-victory interview, one of his former Saunier-Duval team-mates was facing the very real possibility that he too might be changing his image. Ivano Fanini, owner of the Italian Continental Amore & Vita team, revealed on Tuesday that he was ready to sign Riccardo Riccò, providing the ginger doper “removed the two earrings, piercings and also the diamond embedded in a tooth”. It’s easy to criticise Fanini for putting cosmetic alterations as his number one priority while issues related directly to the Cobra’s doping past only made third and fifth on his list. But this is Riccò we’re dealing with, a man so dim-witted that the ability to put in an earring without his earlobe going septic is probably an immense source of pride. In this context, you can imagine the psychological challenge the one-time wannabe barman was facing – which could be why he walked away from Amore & Vita and signed for Meridian-Kamen the very next day. Heigh ho.

4 UP Leather
Staying with the serious business of makeovers, those monochrome fashionistas at Team Leopard Trek have given their style-conscious fans the opportunity to buy the same leather jacket that Andy Schleck and Fabian Cancellara will be working this season. “Shop the look”, the Leopards command, somewhat confusingly. But which look to go for: cabaret Justin Timberlake tribute act or underweight Judge Dredd? And would you really be willing to pay £570 for the privilege?

3 UP Nudity The naked human form cannot possibly offend when placed atop a bike – and BBC2 viewers were reminded of this simple truth during the Bank Holiday weekend when the whimsical video for Bicycle Race popped up during Days Of Our Lives, a wonderful new two-part documentary on Queen. Sadly, magistrates in Suffolk have not learned this lesson from history, as they recently fined 23-year-old cyclist Alexander Purser £500 and handed him an 18-month conditional discharge for trying to set off a speed trap while wearing only his trainers and a pair of spectacles. Spoilsports.

2 DOWN Gyroscopic force
Regular readers may well suspect that The DYNAMITE! Files knows next-to-nothing about the science behind bicycles, and they would be entirely correct to make that assumption. In fact, the only bike-based scientific theory we know is that gyroscopic forces on the front wheel and the angle of the fork increase stability – and now it turns out that both have been debunked. So thanks to the experimental model demonstrated by Cornell University and the University of Wisconsin, no one knows exactly how bikes stay upright. Damn you, science!

1 DOWN Olympics tickets
Like Stonehenge or the Wandsworth one-way system, mankind may well never fathom the rationale behind the Olympic ticketing process – but after a quarter of a million people were left empty-handed on Wednesday morning, we now have a vague clue to how the fiendish ballot operators decided who should be kept out of sports venues next year. Bradley Wiggins, Boris Johnson, The DYNAMITE! Files and just about everyone we know personally on that there Twitter were turned down, including the Olympics’ very own Head of New Media and friend of this weblog Alex Balfour – and it is obviously no coincidence that all of us ride bicycles. If that’s not a clear case of minority discrimination, chums, we don’t know what is! To make matters worse, it was London’s racing cyclists who let the 2012 visionaries bulldoze the legendary Eastway circuit to build the Pringle-roofed velodrome overlooking the A12, and now they’ll be locked out when Team GB bag their gold medals. At this point, you may expect a scathing diatribe about the situation (particularly as Condor Cycles this week identified our reputation for having “a sharp tongue”) but The DYNAMITE! Files isn’t all that bothered, actually. It’s the Olympics – a spectacle, yes, but not as jaw-droppingly awesome as, say, Prince live at Wembley, nor as historically resonant as the fall of the Berlin Wall. In the case of track cycling, it’s just people doing something similar to what we do, but faster. And, course, it will be on the telly. But if you’re still desperate for tickets, then check out the website for the Olympics’ German vendor, which was apparently prohibited from advertising in the UK but is obliged to shift tickets. There’s no cycling, although you can grab a seat at the third round of the women’s ping-pong for 120 smackers. Don’t say we never do anything for you.

The DYNAMITE! Five: The week in cycling, remixed. Issue #4

April 29, 2011

5 UP Carbon fibre
Take that, wood! Get out of town, laser-fused nylon! Run to the funny farm, loopy steel stays! Because after three relentless weeks of challenges to its reputation as the most exotic type of material for a frame, carbon fibre has hit back with a huge loom whose sinister, silky precision will instantly mesmerise every hater of the dark stuff. Yes, the clip below is made by a car manufacturer, but it is surely only a matter of time before this robotic method of production becomes the norm for bike frames – and when the machines finally take over, friends, you can bet your Madone there will be a reappraisal of the traditional artistry of Taiwanese sweatshop workers.

4 DOWN The Oxford English Dictionary
A confession: The DYNAMITE! Files has never been privy to a conversation where “ankle” has been deployed as a verb – but apparently somebody, somewhere frequently uses the term to describe “flexing the ankles while cycling in order to increase pedalling efficiency”, because the phrase was given its very own entry in the Oxford English Dictionary this week. For the 2012 edition, the OED’s lexicographers might want to include a word most cycle fans actually recognise, such as “packing”, “glass-cranking” or, er, “suitcase” (noun: a storage device for courage, as used by ITV’s Paul Sherwen).

3 UP Mark Cavendish
“Did a training ride/race today. It went well/didn’t go well. Roll on the next training ride/race!” If the standard formula of pro cyclists’ tweets are beginning to tire you, then you obviously haven’t heard (ring the lap bell!) that Mark Cavendish finally made his Twitter debut this week. Subjects so far include weird Italian fashions, poor air travel etiquette, the indignity of the massage table and a re-enactment of a scene from Lord of The Rings. Easily the funniest and most engaging professional cyclist in the Twitterverse, and he hasn’t even raced since signing up. Raise your Twitter game, Fabian!

2 UP Olympics
Bad news for track fans who are deep-of-pocket yet slow-off-the-mark: your chance of spending £325 for the privilege of watching less than three hours of cycling has all but vanished. But don’t despair, because although the events at the Olympic velodrome were sold out by the end of the Tuesday night deadline, you may just be able to pick up a ticket or two for the men’s road race. Yes, you’ll be paying £60 for what is otherwise a free event, but you’ll be able to tell your grandchildren you listened to some national anthems you probably never heard before while the medals were given out. And that, chums, is priceless.

1 UP Germain Burton
On the subject of witnessing unique moments, a 16-year-old boy won the first Crystal Palace elite race of the season on Tuesday night. Naturally, most of the tweeting about that notable evening has centred around the subsequent arson attack that destroyed the organisers’ equipment, but even so, there seemed to be a conspicuous lack of amazed comments that accompanied Germain Burton’s win. Perhaps that’s because the teenager has pedigree (his dad is British track legend Maurice Burton) and he’s already won the Bec Hill Climb, which makes his win seem less surprising. Or could it be that the Palace regulars don’t like mentioning they were beaten by a schoolboy? Surely not!

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