Posts Tagged ‘Sportive’

I’ve written something for the latest issue of Cycling Weekly

September 26, 2013

I wasn’t going to do any blogposts this week as me and Jen are in Florence for the World Championships. So this is just a quick note to say that my review of the Challenge Vercors is in the current edition of Cycling Weekly. I haven’t seen it yet, but apparently it’s in the sportive round-up and it looks something like this…

cycling weekly challenge vercors review

It’s got snow, a gorge and I dun rote it. What else could you possibly ask for? Buy your copy today! (Or tomorrow if you’re busy.)

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French horns

June 29, 2012

Hello again! It’s been a while, hasn’t it? And as a discerning consumer of webular content, I know exactly what you’re after: a succinct and reasonably diverting explanation for my absence. Well, your luck’s in, sunshine, because that’s precisely what I am about to furnish your eyeballs with. In a nutshell, I was preparing for a trip to France; I then travelled to France; and now I have returned from France. That means there’s going to be a lot of French stuff in this post. So, Francophobes, treat this paragraph as your sortie and leave, as they say, toot sweet. (Sortie means ‘exit’, which is a True French Fact what I have learned. Another True French Fact lodged in my head is that quotidien kind of means ‘quotidian’. This pleases me: their word for everyday is far from everyday. And it makes me wonder how you, the French-despiser who is about to depart from this blog, can possibly dislike a language that rejects the humdrum so emphatically. Begone! The French are simply too good for you.)

I’ll begin my account where our trip ended: at Luxembourg Gardens, sheltering from a sudden downpour with Littlejen and a couple of dozen Parisians. Young children are screaming with delight at the fierceness of the downpour while a quartet of indifferent students sit at a table smoking dope. Nobody is bothered by either party. About 30 feet away from our shelter, the joyful blast of a school’s brass band refuses to be silenced by the sheeting rain clattering on leaves and the roof of the bandstand. It is this – the sound of trumpets and their tubular cousins blown enthusiastically – that has been the soundtrack of my holiday. For I can honestly say I have heard more ebullient parping in one week than I had for years.

The bulk of the brass-based jollity occurred during the Ardechoise sportive, which was part of my four-day cycling sojourn in the Ardeche region before I met up with Jen in Paris. It was during my negotiation of an otherwise unremarkable corner on the 125km route that a small group played a military-style march; within a few miles, I had passed a sousaphone-wielding funk outfit. Later, as I tucked into my complementary post-ride pasta, a trombonist casually led a mariachi band into the food tent where they struck up a rousing and somewhat ramshackle version of Seven Nation Army. Whether hungry, tired or both, the sportive’s 12,000 competitors were destined to by buoyed at some point by a brigade of puff-cheeked chaps. For that, I can wholeheartedly say: thank you, proud brassmen of France!

This was my third sportive on foreign shores, and all three trips benefitted from London Dynamo’s seamless organisation. My previous two jaunts with the club were in Italy – the Nove Colli last year and the Granfondo Pinarello in 2008. For me, the main difference between my French adventure and the Italian events, and the factor that made this sportive slightly harder than I anticipated, was the absence of any flat roads: I started on a climb (see photo above), finished on a whizzy 20km descent and spent the five hours in between going up and down while the temperature rose to a giddy peak of 24C. The climbing in the two Italian sportives was sandwiched between flat starts and finishes, but those, too, presented their own challenges: I was on the drops pushing 30mph at the start of the Pinarello, and I struggled to find a rhythm in the dull the final kilometres of the Nove Colli.

There are other differences. The food on offer at the Italian feed stations was more varied, although in France we had the option of washing down a roll with a cup (or two, or three) of red wine. The Italian sportives generally had more of a carnival atmosphere: at the Nove Colli, many dressed up in bandanas to ride in Pantani’s former training ground, while the locals’ daredevil descending at the Pinarello often seemed, to this timid Englishman at least, to have an air of look-at-me theatricality. There were thousands of club kits on display in Italy, whereas the official yellow and magenta sportive jersey and familiar generic clothing brands were a commoner sight at the Ardechoise. (Speaking of which, I had the pleasure of drafting a competitor by the name of Beatrice Defour for a number of miles this year. So that’s what a sleeveless white Assos skinsuit looks like. God bless triathlon! God bless France! God bless Beatrice Dephwoar!) And the Italian events were simply louder – much louder. Last year I gauged my closeness to the top of the crank-punishing Barbotto by how much I could hear of Metallica’s cover of Whisky In The Jar blaring from the sound system – and at the finish, the excitable MC was only to happy to volubly announce the presence of a certain “LON-DON DEE-NA-MOOOOOH!”

For me, though, it is French brass bands that capture what should be the true spirit of sportive riding. Yes, there may be times when you feel completely alone – blissfully so as you fly up a climb, or grinding away, mired in your own private hell – but the blast of a trumpet, a trombone’s glissando, or the oompah of a tuba provides a perky, galvanising sense of togetherness. Sound the horn! A fanfare, please! Like those children shrieking in the rain, or the students taking a drag on a joint, we are all here together, each of us seeking out our own type of fun.

The DYNAMITE! Five: The week in cycling, remixed. Issue #8

June 10, 2011

5 DOWN The Dragon Ride
A mood of high dudgeon pervaded the sportive community this week after many Dragon Ride participants noticed they had been omitted from the official list of finishing times – and there was some surprise, to say the least, that the feed stations at Britain’s best-known mass-participation cycling event were handing out bags of crisps to carb-starved riders. Those aren’t the sort of cock-ups you want at the UK’s premier sportive, especially since it landed a big-name sponsor in the form of Wiggle and has been awarded “Golden Bike” status by the UCI for next year’s edition. But speaking as a former poster-boy for the Welsh hill-romp, this blog would like to put the criticisms and general moaning into some sort of perspective: responsibility for the timing chip problems – reportedly caused by mounting the race numbers too tightly – is ultimately down to the company contracted to provide the equipment, not the organisers, and the nutrition is certainly better than in 2007, when finishers were handed “gels” which actually turned out to be, er, sachets of lubricant. That experience really did leave a bad taste in the mouth. Quite literally.

4 DOWN Mark Cavendish
Being the wittiest tweeter in the peloton, Mark Cavendish naturally reacted with good humour after discovering on Tuesday that the water supply at his home in Tuscany had been mysteriously cut off. “Got squirrels living in my hair and mushrooms growing in my feet now,” he quipped, and later admitted he had used the lavatory before fully realising the consequences. That’s the sort of toilet-based humour this blog loves, but we can’t help thinking that there’s a more sinister side to Cav’s predicament. Because if you’ve seen Jean de Florette, you’ll know how they deal with outsiders in the more bucolic parts of the Continent: deprive them of water in the hope of driving them away. Somebody help the poor guy before it ends in tragedy!

3 UP Walker Savidge
It features two chaps thrusting their crotches while another seems delighted to be caught between them, so it’s no surprise that this snap of Taylor Phinney, Danny Summerhill and Walker Savidge has been bringing the LOLS this week following its appearance on yay cycling! and Cycleboredom. But the image is lifted above the usual level of homoerotic fratboy tomfoolery by the expression on Savidge’s face. Just look at him on the right: the quiet dignity, the stoical acceptance that the photo might resurface, say, three years after the event, but those who snigger at it will never, ever be able to take away his sense of self-worth. Or maybe he just didn’t realise where Phinney and Summerhill had their hands. Actually, it’s probably the latter, isn’t it?

2 DOWN Cycling websites
A Tour de France star jets in to Britain, sets a record in an area of the capital known to amateur cyclists throughout the UK, and not one cycling website which doesn’t have a print equivalent bothers to report it. Strange, but true. In fact, The DYNAMITE! Files’ site stats reveal that a few inquisitive souls googling for information about the intriguing event ended up here – so for them, here’s this week’s news about…

1 UP David Millar
You know how it is – your autobiography is about to be published, so your agenda includes a swanky book launch, a round of interviews, and mercilessly crushing the fragile egos of every competitive amateur cyclist in London, Surrey and beyond by doing the fastest-ever lap of Richmond Park on your very first visit. Damn you, David Millar! Setting off at 7:23am on Sunday as part of a clandestine time trial he had organised for his Velo Club Rocacorba buddies, the Commonwealth champ completed an anticlockwise circuit of the hallowed 6.7-mile loop in 13min 35secs, giving him an average speed of 29.595mph. And the BBC’s footage of the event, which was removed on Thursday after the Royal Parks complained, featured a post-ride interview with the great man wearing a natty beret. As they say, hat!