Posts Tagged ‘Daily Telegraph’

Lifestyle doping and the rise of the no-fessional

August 19, 2015

Here’s a true story. An accomplished amateur cyclist went round to a similarly high-achieving rider’s home for dinner. During the course of the evening, the guest confided to the host that work and family life had got in the way of bike racing. The host was unimpressed as they too had children and other responsibilities yet still found time to train and race. “Isn’t that right?” the host said, turning to their spouse for support.

Mentally noting that the accomplished amateur cyclist was aided by a personal trainer, a nutritionist, support for their family and ultra high-end kit, not to mention a complete lack of paid work, the long-suffering spouse coolly responded with the admirably Salteresque aversion: “Up to a point, dear.”

This anecdote, which I stumbled across a couple of years ago, popped into my head when I saw the Daily Telegraph’s John Critchlow provide a breakdown of the eye-popping £25,000 he had spent to compete in top-level amateur races. It was the first in a planned series of missives which will detail his racing progress, and I suppose it’s in the nature of these sorts of serial blog posts to inspire others who would like to take up a similar challenge (although I can’t seem to find any follow-up posts in the intervening four months). In any case, more knowledgeable people than myself have done a good job of ridiculing the idea it is necessary to spend the equivalent of the average UK salary just to ride the Surrey League and other events that no normal person gives a flying toss about, so I’m not going to throw another log onto that particular bonfire of hilarities. What interests me is how Critchlow, like the nameless dinner party host I’ve mentioned, seems unable to acknowledge a simple truth: that in the pursuit of sporting excellence, emptying your wallet and your schedule may give you an unfair advantage.

This isn’t about harvesting results. The High-Achieving Dinner Party Host has a considerable list of wins to their name, whereas a comment on Critchlow’s post points out he had yet to score a single BCF point this season. The advantage I’m talking about is psychological. Would the dinner party guest be quite as demotivated if they too had a paid backup crew? And be honest: aren’t there bleak moments when you wished you had the pro-level of support that the Telegraph’s Mr Mid-Life Crisis has afforded himself?

I’d call this sort of thing lifestyle doping – injecting litres of dosh and keeping a secret stash of expendable time, both of which enable you to be competitive at a high level. In truth, a form of lifestyle doping was around when I started riding semi-seriously around a dozen years ago. I remember my amused clubmate Chris Chapman telling me after a chipper race that our Dynamo chum Sam Humpheson had “won the race for people with jobs” by taking the bunch sprint after a break had already crossed the line, led by a particularly unloved crit racer who did practically nothing else at the time except train and race. It was a few years later that we entered into The Era Of The Golden Parachute, a period immediately after the global financial crisis which saw some high-earners of my acquaintance suddenly finding themselves with no paid employment, bags of cash from a redundancy settlement and even bigger bags of free time, which they filled up by punishing themselves on a bicycle for months on end. Then another job would come along, and living the pro dream came to an abrupt halt.

These Golden Parachutists, or at least the ones I knew, quietly went about getting into the form of their lives without drawing too much attention to themselves. But now lifestyle doping has bred an altogether less modest cyclist: the No-fessional, the sort of rider who will never have a professional contract but behaves a bit like they do. Like a professional cyclist, the no-fessional revels in the attention and admiration that comes with a life spent in the saddle, which in their case is attained by blogging and tweeting about every ruddy mile they ride. But unlike professional cyclists, the riding no-fessionals do isn’t exactly racing, even though they like to give the impression it is. I know of one no-fessional who boasted of completing a Grand Tour when it was actually just the route they were riding (and – whisper it quietly – they didn’t complete all the stages). Another no-fessional, my chum Chris Ward, recently qualified for a glorified sportive called the UCI Vets World Championship Road Race where every rider is lifestyle doped up to the eyeballs – which, as another friend who took part in a previous edition noted, consequently means the quality of the field isn’t the highest that it could be. There are probably faster guys on your club run.

I should pause here to say I am not knocking Chris (or, indeed, anyone else I’ve mentioned) for becoming fitter, faster and healthier. But Chris’s aim was to prove that it’s possible to work more than 40 hours a week and still conquer an extraordinary challenge, to which I would say: up to a point, dear. One of the reasons he’s able to train when he wants is because he has a number of factotums who are willing to work antisocial hours to get his projects completed on time. And I would know, because I was one of them.

Which brings us back to that dinner party and Critchlow’s blogging for the Telegraph. Because that’s the common theme of the high-profile lifestyle doper: tell your audience you can do what I do while glossing over the advantage they have over the schmucks. To quote the great American philosopher S. Twain, that don’t impress me much. Riding with riders who are wiser or fitter than you and learning from them will help you reach your goals. Listening to hollow bragging probably won’t.

Advertisements

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 #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 #12

August 12, 2011

5 UP A dog in a jersey
Look! It’s a dog wearing a British National Champion’s jersey! And his name is Bradley Waggings! Or Grrr-aint Thomas! Or maybe – ha ha! – Ni-collie Cooke! That’s right! Look at the picture of the doggy which Cycling Weekly tweeted! Not at the news – the doggy! Don’t even think about bike shops being looted, races being called off at Crystal Palace and Hillingdon or that chap from the Telegraph getting knocked off his bike and robbed – just LOOK INTO THE LOVELY, CALMING, UNTHREATENING GAZE OF THE DOGGY! Bad thoughts gone away? Equilibrium restored? Good. Now we can get on with our usual weekly whimasathon…

4 UP Nicolas Sarkozy
The burden of the pretend pro, or “no-fessional”, is a heavy one. While their chums are stuck in an office, perhaps reading a sporadically amusing cycling-related top five run-down to help them get through the day, these aspirational amateurs must focus on one thing and one thing only: cranking out huge mileages, and perhaps tweeting or blogging about it afterwards. But the scope of their obliviousness – which mainly involves paying no attention to a dwindling redundancy fund and an irked spouse – pales in comparison to that of French president Nicolas Sarkozy, who last week ignored the entire eurozone almost going down the crapper so he could go for a pootle on his reasonably-priced B’Twin. To restore British honour, The DYNAMITE! Files is calling on David Cameron, our own pedalling premier, to lead an Armstrong-style Twitter ride through the locality of the next inner-city conflagration while it’s still going on. It is the only way to show the French that we are better than them at blind indifference.

3 DOWN George W Bush
Staying with World Leaders On Bikes News, issue 25 of Rouleur contains a brief appraisal of George W Bush’s crash history, courtesy of an admirably frank exchange between two staff members at Trek’s Wisconsin headquarters. “Bush had, like, eight [bikes] come through,” reveals paint technician Patrick Sullivan. “He just kept wreckin’ ’em. He’d take ’em round to his ranch and stuff, and I dunno how the hell he does it. I haven’t ever wrecked a bike in my entire life. Maybe he fell a lot.” Well, the former US president always did seem to be a few spokes short of the proverbial full Ksyrium, so maybe he was as clumsy with his Treks as he was with his words. Or perhaps he did what some careful owners of carbon dream machines would secretly love to do if they didn’t have to pay for them: ride the bike into the ground and then simply get a new one. We’ll just have to wait for Bush’s memoirs before this mystery is solved.

2 DOWN Pendragon – Le Col – Colnago
“Eritrean Halie Dawit was refused a visa, while Libyan Ahmed Belgassem was stuck in his revolution-affected country.” Not the sort of sentence you usually get from Cycling Weekly, and not the type of thing you expect to happen to riders signed by a British racing team. But apparently that was part of the “catalogue of circumstancial [sic] situations” that affected Pendragon – Le Col – Colnago, which announced yesterday it is disbanding at the end of the season. If only The DYNAMITE! Files had a few quid to keep the south-west squad going – then, one day, we might get to read about, say, a plucky Afghan tearing it up around Smithfield, or an Egyptian standing on the podium of the Tour Series. We can but dream.

1 DOWN Artcrank
An urgent announcement for “velophiles” everywhere: mobs of confused, pitchfork-wielding lunatics have been known to drive paedatricians from their homes, so for the sake of your own safety, you may want to find a less unusual term to express your bike lust. In the meantime, an organisation called Artcrank is selling some nice posters next Friday at Look Mum No Hands! which, according to the event’s promotional blather, is the home of all things velophiliac. It’s possible, of course, that the American organisers are living up to the “crank” part of their name by using the made-up word “velophile” in the hope that it will be adopted by a café full of gullible twerps. And, hey, anything could happen after necking a few Slags (the Look Mum unofficial house beer) – although you’d have to be really sozzled to make sense of the Yanks’ assertion that “bicycles now ply the busiest areas of the city”, as if there were once swathes of central London where cyclists never rode. “Riding a bike is like an invitation to be creative,” says founder Charles Youel – a bit like writing a press release, it seems. (The DYNAMITE! Files is going for a lie down now. It’s feeling a bit Artcranky.)

The DYNAMITE! Five: The Tour de France, remixed. Issue #10

July 29, 2011

5 DOWN “Ablerto” Contador
It was the Tour where he revealed himself to be a mere mortal – but before Cadel and the Schlecks humbled him at high altitude, Alberto Contador’s godlike status seemed unimpeachable, particularly to the subeditors over at the Daily Telegraph. The penultimate paragraph of Brendan Gallagher’s pre-Pyrenees assessment refers to Bertie as “He” rather than “he”, and in keeping with each of the Gospels giving slightly differing accounts of the same events, the quotes from the man himself appear to be somewhat repetitive (“The stage went well, and that’s good news for my knee […] The stage went well, and that’s good news for my knee.”) And God only knows why he’s referred to as “Ablerto” in the picture caption. Heavens above!

4 UP (too far up) Shorts
The drama of stage nine, which saw plucky Thomas Voeckler take yellow after a car walloped Johnny Hoogerland into a barbed wire fence, overshadowed a far more serious development: shorts are becoming far too short. The two breakaway men have been sporting the high-up-the-thigh look for a while now, with Hoogerland eliciting an “ooh-look-at-you” stare from Riccardo Riccò back in January, and Voeckler’s appearance causing a teammate to bite his lip at the Tour’s opening ceremony. But now they’re bloody heroes, so expect to see your more impressionable mates wearing the sort of shorts that would make a speed skater blush. Oh, the indignity…

Courtesy of the lip-smacking cyclinginquisition.com


3 UP Nicknames
Some say “Bo-AH-son Hagen”, others “BWA-son Hagen”, whereas Mrs Dynamite, referencing the sort of films young Edvald’s home region is perhaps most famous for, prefers to pronounce it “Boobs-and-hard-on”. That always gets a laugh in our famous soundproof bunker, although it’s obviously far too rude to become common currency among less rakish cycling fans. Similarly, her name for a certain high-shorted Dutchman – “Johnny Sexylegs” – is unlikely to catch on now that the horrific image of his lacerated pins is indelibly etched on everyone’s mind. But The DYNAMITE! Files thinks it has stumbled on a nickname for Thomas Voeckler that can sit next to modern classics such as “Cuddles” and “SMASH”. The little Frenchman licked his lips en route to taking yellow, got a bit mouthy with Hoogerland’s Dutch fans booing him on Alpe d’Huez, and he has a quintessentially Gallic gob shape, so The DYNAMITE! Files shall henceforth refer to him as… Le Mighty Bouche.

2 UP Viewing figures
Terrible news for anyone still hoping that the Tour de France would remain a weird, esoteric sporting event: watching grown men suffer for three weeks has apparently become a ratings hit, with UK figures for the final stage almost equalling its 1980s Channel Four heyday. Snobs looking to defect to another pain-filled sport may want to try The Spartan Race, which apparently involves running through flames and tugging a boulder on a rope. Like, epic!

1 DOWN The points competition
As you might expect, this blog is overjoyed that Mark Cavendish, our favourite tweeting cycleperson, has finally claimed the emerald prize that should have been his two years ago. But as for the concept of the green jersey itself… well, it’s great that the competition is now weighted in favour of winning stages, but you can’t make intermediate sprints any less uninteresting by renaming them super intermediate sprints and throwing a few more points at them. And let’s be honest: how many fans actually know the number of points up for grabs in a stage anyway? It seems perverse that the competition featuring the fastest, most thrilling finishes should rely on a dull, arcane number-crunching system to decide the winner. So here’s a radical idea: ditch the intermediate sprints altogether, give the maillot vert to the rider who wins the most sprint stages, and call it the Stage Winners’ Jersey. If there’s a tie, the rider who has consistently finished the highest wins. Otherwise, the points competition is, well, a bit pointless.

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.