Posts Tagged ‘Chris Froome’

Is cycling rock or pop? (Answer: it’s pop.)

March 14, 2014

I like pop. Big pop. Enormopop. The type of pop it’s usually not OK to like – the synthetic, bright, ebullient kind which sounds as if it could’ve been assembled on the sort of machine you are reading these words from, because it usually is. I like voices – typically, women’s voices – that sound as if they have rocketed across oceans to reach your heart, and in an age where a song could have been recorded anywhere, they probably did. I like Sia, Robyn, Scherzinger, Gaga, the Aloud, that sort of thing. And as a committed bicycleperson, that puts me in a very small minority. Possibly a minority of one.

One of the shortest conversations I had in the Rouleur office was about the 2009 Eurovision song contest, even though I was raving about the spiralling, doomed romanticism of Patricia Kaas’s Et S’il Fallait Le Faire, which I thought would be right up their rue. A few years later at a Dynamo Christmas do, a fellow member asked me, in a manner which suggested he wanted reassuring that this was the case, if my frequent tweets about the X Factor were meant ironically (they weren’t). I can understand his concern: cycling, at least the type of cycling I enjoy, has more in common with the appreciation of rock, which hardly makes it the ideal environment for a TV-talent-show-loving nincompoop like myself. There’s an old belief, the lead singer of the Kaiser Chiefs recently noted, that you’re not in a bona fide band until you’ve gone “up the M1 500 times”; similarly, there are those who believe that you’re not a proper cyclist until you’ve got a few thousand miles in your legs (which, of course, have to be hard miles, up hills and mountains). Road cycling is about paying your dues and observing tradition: drop handlebars, 700c wheels and a diamond-shaped frame are its guitar, bass and drums. Cycling wears a serious face in monochrome, often amid a remote, enveloping natural landscape, like Joshua Tree-era U2 (a sullen aesthetic which, Raphaistas should note, even the world’s most ludicrously earnest band eventually had to abandon). The message, as crushing as a powerchord, is clear: cycling has a deep, inscrutable meaning; cycling is tough; cycling is 4 Real.

Or is it? Throughout my musical life, I’ve often felt excluded from the seriousness of being a rock fan – its various modes of rebellion, the accumulation of arcane knowledge, the penetration of the obligatory veil of mystery. The world of club cycling, on the other hand, I’ve found to be welcoming and jolly, despite – or maybe to mitigate – the physical pain you have to endure to be any good at it. And whereas rock can often feel like an exclusive club in which its members are obliged to venerate the ‘right’ artists and the ‘right’ albums, cycling won’t show you the door if you can’t tell your Coppi from your Bartoli, although it might point you in the direction of a detailed, hardback tome.

Watching a key moment in a race, such as Froome attacking Quintana on Mont Ventoux, gives me the same rush I get from pop. How could it not? Because, at its very core, cycling has a throbbing pop heart.

Embed from Getty Images

For a start, cycling, like pop, is a bastard form. Pop is a magpie nicking ideas – sounds, melodies, riffs, looks – from whatever genre it can find and repurposing them in a new form. Cycling did this when it pinched the downhill tuck from skiing and came up with the aerobar. The manufacturing know-how that produces many of the groupsets in the peloton came from golf and fishing equipment. Some of the training principles that put the current champion of the Tour de France on the top of the podium in Paris originated in swimming. Pop is manufactured, and so to is the constantly-evolving object at the core of cycling, the bicycle. There is no room for a blues-like purity in such a modern, inquisitive sport.

On an immediate, visual level, cycling is also identifiably pop. The rush of colours that constitute the pro peloton has an unabashed, gaudy, Roy Lichtenstein look about it. From a less artistic standpoint, the Tour’s post-stage shows became the inspiration for the Radio 1 Roadshow after station controller Johnny Beerling stumbled across them while on holiday in France. And, fundamentally, cycling shares pop’s commercial instincts: even though a race can make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, it nevertheless exists primarily as a sponsors’ billboard.

Pop’s message, if it has one, is that the most thrilling place to be is the present. And is that not the feeling you experience when you’re completely immersed in a race – any race? Whenever I come across enthusiasm for a relatively obscure non-European event, I’m struck by how the more committed type of cycling fan exists at an emotional frequency as high as their pop counterparts. Compare this to football, where pre-season friendlies – the equivalent of the tour of Oman or Dubai – are considered so uninteresting that the great Danny Baker recently suggested that they should be held behind closed doors.

So let’s abandon the mythologising, tradition-heavy, rock-like paradigm we use to frame our perception of cycling. Pop is unhip. Pop requires no chin-stroking expert’s permission to exist. And those, to me, are the qualities that are at the very root of why we love cycling.

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Why Chris Froome might not win the Tour de France

June 14, 2013

Chris Froome is likely to win the Tour de France because he has won this year’s edition of the Dauphiné. If you crunched the numbers and analyzed the manner of his victory, that might turn out to be an accurate prediction. Purely from a historical perspective, though, the opposite is true: Froome is unlikely to win in July, chiefly because he won in June and has never won the Tour before.

Only Luis Ocaña (1973), Bernard Thévenet (1975) and Bradley Wiggins (2012) have won the Dauphiné and claimed their first or solitary TdF victory in the same year. That’s three riders in the 66-year history of the Dauphiné, with a 37-year gap between the second and third. And the notion of the Dauphiné as a harbinger of a debut Tour win becomes even flimsier when you consider that Ocaña, a winner of the Dauphiné on two previous occasions, had the advantage of Eddy Merckx’s absence from the ’73 Tour.

I want Froome to win this year. I would also like him to take at least two more Tour wins. Because if he does, he will have bested Thevénet’s achievement of being the only member of this select Dauphiné-Tour club to take a second Tour de France victory.

Tea de France: week two

July 11, 2012

Like an ambitious third cat switching from a heart rate monitor to a power meter, Team Tea has upped its game this week by investing in a valuable piece of hardware: the Home-Tek Aqua Sensor Kettle and Water Filter.

With this handy device, we are now able to prepare each brew to the manufacturer’s recommended temperature and keep the water warm for a second pot should we so desire. And we did very much desire another swig of a certain brew last weekend – so come with us now as we describe the highs and relative lows of our tour of teas. Strainers at the ready – let’s par-tea!

Stage 7, Saturday 7 June

Tomblaine – La Planche des Belles Filles, 199km
Winner: Chris Froome (Sky)
Brew: Thé Des Alizes
They say: “A green tea enlivened by flower petals and delicately scented with pieces of white peach, kiwi and watermelon. The green tea and the juicy freshness of the fruit are wonderfully balanced. Can be drunk hot or iced.”
We say: On screen, the sensational double act of Froome and Bradley Wiggins taking the stage win and the yellow jersey respectively; in our mouths, a much less impressive double-act of fruits and green tea. Peach dominates, but who really wants peaches in their cuppa? Well-blended, so not the unpalatable taste you might expect, but for us it’s not worth a revisit. A curiosi-tea.

Stage 8, Sunday 8 June
Belfort – Porrentruy ,157.5km
Winner: Thibaut Pinot (FDJ–BigMat)
Brew: Margaret’s Hope
They say: “Fruity with a great character. Special feature: it is invigorating and dark because of the greater proportion of Assam tea plants (20%) than Chinese plants on the plantation, something that is not very common in Darjeeling. It is a much sought after tea, which Darjeeling enthusiasts find ideal in the morning.”
We say: If yesterday’s tea was an oddi-tea, today’s was back to normali-tea. You could, if you wished, happily throw a splash of cow juice in this one. But as cycling history fan Thibaut Pinot proved with a thrilling solo stage win which got his directeur sportif Marc Madiot banging his car door with joy, a love of tradition doesn’t mean you have to be dull. This brew has a lovely malty Assam base and a rich, woody aftertaste. The overall flavour is deep and enriching. Unquestionably our top tea thus far.

So there we are. Margaret’s Hope leads our tour of teas – and, appropriately for British cycling’s domination of the Tour, it’s the only brew in our selection that has an English name. Who will be its competition for the top of the tea GC? We’re giving no tea-sers. Come back soon to find out…

The DYNAMITE! Five: The week in cycling, remixed. Issue #16

September 9, 2011

5 UP Todd Gogulski and Steve Schlanger
First things first: if you didn’t catch Sky’s Chris Froome winning stage 17 of the Vuelta on Wednesday, then head over to Universal Sports to see the Kenyan-born Brit’s all-out, gutsy double attack on the Peña Cabarga, and to marvel at the all-out, gutsy double attack of US commentators Todd Gogulski and Steve Schlanger as they attempt to out-yell each other. The OMG-gasm at 3min 20sec – “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!” – is a sound to marvel at. You don’t get this from Phil and Paul…

4 DOWN Dahon
What’s the worse that can go wrong in the world of collapsible bikes? A stiff Sturmey-Archer lever? Misplaced bicycle clip? Scuffed Birkenstocks? Well, if you think that’s the case, you’ve obviously not heard about the internecine battle of the Hons. Dr David Hon, founder of Dahon, began pursuing Josh Hon through the courts after his son and estranged wife Florence started a new company called Tern. In August Dahon senior failed to stop Tern trading, and last Thursday a court in Munich made a preliminary injunction forbidding Dahon from selling two of its 2012 range in Germany ahead of Eurobike. So it’s Dahon vs Dahon. And you know what that means, don’t you? Yes, it’s a DYNAMITE! Files pun explosion! Because things have taken a Tern for the worse. It’s a case that could go Dahon and on. Hopefully, one side will do Dahonourable thing. Or it’s Dahmagedd-on. One company could even fold. (FOLD, you see. Because they’re folding bikes, yes? Oh please yourselves…)

3 UP The bike tree
“Boy went to war in 1914 – left his bike chained to a tree.” That, at least, was the story of a seemingly poignant photo doing the rounds on Twitter – until someone pointed out that tree trunks grow thicker, not taller, so the bike was probably placed up there by some prankster on a ladder. But does that make it any less awesome? No, chums, it does not. In a strange way, the bicycle looks like it naturally belongs there, the colour of the rust melding into the hue of the tree’s bark. And it’s a practical joke which has taken up to 70 years to reach its conclusion – a dedication to tomfoolery which this light-hearted blog wholeheartedly admires. So bravo, mystery bike planter, whomsoever you may be…

2 DOWN Damon Rinard
What would you say to a porky rider looking to justify the purchase of an aero road bike? If you’re Damon Rinard, race engineer at Cervélo, your answer to BikeBiz magazine consists of just two words: “Thor Hushovd.” So Cervélo reckons the muscular, powerful Norwegian is “porky”, eh? Dear oh dear – no wonder he’s off to BMC!

1 DOWN Leopard
The name is extinct – so farewell, then, to that strange, contradictory beast called Leopard. The matching scarves, “epic” black-and-white landscapes, a brief attempt to push a fashion line – it all seemed to be a considered, sophisticated marketing strategy, but the whole project from conception to launch was actually a seat-of-the-pants rush job. Leopard’s detractors saw the team as the epitome of corporate dullness crushing the spirit of professional cycling – and yet it aroused huge passions from many (including a defiant and ultimately wide-of-the-mark piece from Velocast) when reports suggested a merger was imminent. And then, late on Monday night, came the final nail in the coffin of Brian Nygaard’s branding: the team that was originally meant to be about “smart, young riders” announced that it is merging with RadioShack, the semi-retirement home of the Armstrong era’s elder statesmen. An interview with Nygaard in the latest edition of SportsPro magazine, published prior to the merger, serves as an unwitting epitaph to the Leopard story (see page 90) – and the Dane admits he “couldn’t care less” if we all pronounced the name “leppard” rather than the prescribed “lay-o-pard”. But The DYNAMITE! Files only wants one question answered: what will be the fate of the light blue strip across the front of Leopard’s jerseys, which, when worn by the team’s portlier fans, appeared to be a middle-aged moob tube? That design feature must stay, if only for the sake of our amusement.