on: Bardet Bardet Barwaddladineday eh Bardadada Barwaddladineday WOH day Bardet

ITV4 coverage of the tour this year, the bits between the racing, not the actual racing, has been brilliant. This is chiefly down to the winning combination of Imlach, Boardman and Boulting. I’ve even warmed to the silent assassin, Matt Rendell, with his perfect french and Hitchcockian undertone of menace.

Highlights included Jen Voigt’s extended homily, questing where reality begins and ends on the Tour; “Now that I have seen both sides, who are the monkeys actually, and who are the people watching and who are the real monkeys? I can’t answer that.” This epithete appeared in the rest day programme, which also featured some terrific footage of Thevenet and Merckx on Pra Loup and an extended interview with Thevenet. It captures the moment Merckx blows up and loses his lead. You can find it on the page below:

http://www.itv.com/tourdefrance/features

Second up is the genius montage which tied Romain Bardet to SL2 forever; it’s a track we’ve been humming in Traumfarrhad Towers for a while now. It’s as though legions of cycling tifosi up and down the land shared the same earworm, but didn’t realise until the sound editor laid it down. He’s probably been itching for a Bardet stage win all year, waiting and waiting, and then BOOM, it drops in his lap.

http://www.itv.com/tourdefrance/on-a-ragga-tip-ey-ba-day-its-a-bardet-day

It’s the best montage I’ve ever seen. Aside from musical mash-ups and vague puns, the Velon footage has been a genuine innovation this year. There is talk of getting to a point where camera footage is available live during the race. It would be quite something to be able to cut to a sprinter’s camera when he stamps on the pedals. The footage from this tour has some unusual angles, mechanic-cam is a favourite. The clip below seems to have someone groaning throughout which adds a bit of depth, as if a multi-rider smash up at 40mph wasn’t deep enough.

However, nothing comes near the action from Alpe D’Huez. As the riders head up through Dutch corner it resembles a scene from a Werner Herzog film, orange smoke drifting across a vision of an inferno; a baying and screaming mob dressed in outlandish attire. A genuinely unreal spectacle.

The most epic toilet in the world

I had the good fortune to visit the Rapha CC in Manchester this week. Whilst there I used the facilities and discovered the most epic toilet in the world. It marked a new ‘chapter’ in my relationship with the glossy bongo brand. I’ve always been the first to comment on the epicness of some of their marketing and their target audience, but alongside a clear recognition that Rapha do a huge amount to support British Cycling. However, I never imagined I’d be on the receiving end of their largesse.

The toilet makes me feel strong and powerful.

The talk was to support the recent publication of my book, ‘A Corinthian Endeavour: The Story of the National Hill Climb Championship’. I wanted to show a wobbly powerpoint and some badly scanned images in Manchester because of the longstanding connection between the championship and the Manchester Wheelers – the most successful team in the history of the event. The Wheelers were really helpful, especially Holly, and Rapha allowed us to use their shop/cafe/exhibition space for the talk.

Several legends of cycling turned up to listen to me talk at length in a slightly flustered and oblique fashion. Jim Henderson, Lynn Hamel, Peter Graham, Gareth Armitage and Graham Sydney all made the journey from various parts of the North. It was a reunion of sorts, some of them hadn’t met in 40 years, and it was great to see some animated conversations happening afterwards. Also hidden at the back was the figure of Jeff Williams. I found this a bit unnerving for a couple of simple reasons: we hadn’t met before so I had no idea of how he might feel about the book; and he he was a national road race and hill climb champion who also rode the Olympics and Commonwealth Games. In short, a legend amongst the legends.

Jeff wins on Dovers

It was a fantastic evening. I even got my copy of the book signed by lots of people. It’s starting to feel a bit like a real book tour, like what real writers do. I have another talk at Prologue Cycling in Harrogate on August 20, followed by one at Rapha CC in London on September 16.

In amongst all of this, I’m not finding much time to ride my bicycle. There is another reason besides writing about cycling, and it’s not cycling related.

The Tour is SO TIRING.
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Bristol Grand Prix

The last time bike racing came to the centre of Bristol, Bradley Wiggins was riding round in short trousers and electric gear systems were the stuff of science fiction.

Despite being the famed ‘cycling city’, we’ve had to watch jealously as stage finishes and Tour Series races grazed the edge of Avon. There seems to be have been a subtle shift lately and the arrival of the Tour of Britain last summer was a high point, with both men’s world champions honking up Bridge Valley Road. I chose the picturesque views of Southmead to watch the technicolour blur.

bvr

Yesterday, Le Sportif held the inaugural Bristol Grand Prix using much of the inner city course from the 1980s. It was a short and savage 1.2km circuit with some judiciously place hay bales as a nod to the area’s agricultural and pastoral sensibilities. And to stop riders from being sliced into separate components by the right-angled corners. The event was crowfunded, with some match-funding from Bristol Council and a lot of support from local business. I’d venture to suggest it’s the crowdfunding aspect that got things rolling. they managed to raise over £16k. It’s a significant sum and in an era of local government under-funding, hints at the way forwards for costly events like this. There are always knock-on benefits, and the most obvious ones don’t come with direct revenue gains attached; namely generating a sense of bonhomie and goodwill, getting people cycling, consolidating Bristol’s social identity as a place where people can make things happen with not much more than a will and a way. It might need more corporate and council support in future to establish its place in the calendar, but for now, it is refreshingly ‘local’.

The races were fantastic; running across the range of abilities. Criterium racing is nice and spectator-friendly; you get to see the racers every few minutes and if you’re canny, you can see them twice on the course. It means you can grasp the narrative of the race, although the narrative is often as simple as ‘it looks really hard, these guys are hurting a lot, those guys aren’t hurting as much’. It was great to see so many red and gold jerseys in the pack, outnumbering the other clubs considerably and taking up podium and top ten places. There can’t be many better feelings than getting a result in your home event.

It was a fantastic afternoon of bike racing, made all the more spectacular by the fact that it took place in the centre of Bristol. Things like this happen because there are people like Pip Adkins who make it happen. Chapeau.

Rob Borek hammers it out of the Hatchet at closing time, anxious to avoid another lock-in…

On being published

I’ve been a bit busy of late. It’s quite tricky to juggle the race to publication with a full-time job and the imminent arrival of a new family member.

Last week saw the launch event for the book. It took place at Roll For The Soul. There was standing room only and the talk was warmly received. Several people now have a copy of the book in their possession. The only thing that remains is seeing what people think of it. This is the tricky bit; up until now it’s been my book exclusively. I’ve written and rewritten it and shaped it over the past few years. Now it’s done and sealed and bound, it’s no longer my book. It belongs to each person who reads it to make of it what they will. It’s a nervewracking time.

I had some worries – I think that this is inevitable given the realities of writing about people. It’s a subjective process, no matter how objective you aspire to be, and there is an inherent risk that some of those represented will question some of the assertions. Thus far, it’s been OK. I’ve had some incredibly kind words form some people.

“To tell you the truth, I was a bit overwhelmed. It’s beautifully put together and I had tears in my eyes when I read it”. Peter Graham, National Hill Climb Champion, 1958, 1961 and 1962. Commentator on the National most years.

“You’ve encapsulated everything and it really struck a chord. It’s an emotional read, you have a unique writing style and should be very proud of this aptly named book”. Gareth Armitage, Champion in 1975 and 1978.

“The book is amazing, I loved your description in the presentation of your encounter with Peter Graham who commentates on the Rake, he’s a legend & I always think how perfectly the Rake has been designed for hill climbs, with the driveway on the right of the steep part for the commentator to park in! Also the graveyard at the top on the left in case anyone dies! Its also nice that you mention Terry Smith, the Horseshoe Pass HC founder, I’m sure that his Fibrax Wrexham friends will be very proud of that, Its nice that he too will be remembered in history. I think that I’m more proud of the National HC than anything else I’ve achieved in my life & its really great that you’ve captured it all, I will treasure that book until I’m an old man!” James Dobbin, Champion in 2006 and 2007.

“Very pleased to receive a copy this morning – thanks very much. An excellent read, especially looking back over the years that I rode the Championship. Lots of comments and views of riders who specialised in the anti-gravity game as well as thoughts on the various climbs. Includes chats with riders such as Gareth Armitage, Darryl Webster from the eigthies and more recently Tejvan Pettinger. All hill-climbers should buy a copy, rather than borrow one!”. Phil Hurt, aptly named hillclimber and organiser of this year’s championship on Jackson Bridge.

So far, so good. It’s available on Amazon or other more law-abiding retailers, from tomorrow. Feel free to add comments to this page.

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