Of late I’ve managed to scrape a few bits and pieces into everyone’s favourite cycling rag, The Comic. Last Sunday I was tasked to do the write-up for the RTTC Classic Series. I think Fraser Snowdon puts these my way because he suspects, rightly, that I’m one of a kind with the testerati and know certain obscure details about the Masonic code. Nonetheless, it was a plum assignment, proper Martha Gellhorn stuff, with some cycling royalty taking part – Alex (not Alec, typo fans) Dowsett, a rider who has variously won National Championships, Grand Tour stages and held the hour record. I was instructed to ring him and see if I could get some quotes. Astonishingly, he answered, and did a 15 minute phone interview. He is a very nice chap. This meant the article ended up in the front pages of this week’s rag, with the race report in the back. It was a very juicy double page spread. I’ll put the full transcript up in a little while.
It’s not much, a short article with a neat structure, but I’m thrilled. I’ll write soon about the series of Damascene conversions that led to me a. writing articles for the Comic, and b. writing them whilst wearing only a pair of Rapha Pro Team bib shorts.
I’m a subscriber to the Comic. Like most subscribers to the Comic i complain loudly and vociferously about the marginalisation of many of the traditional elements of cycling, especially club life and the UK time trial and hill climb scene. I also complain about the absence of race coverage of any depth and the paucity of results in favour of relentless self-promotion of their sportive series.
It was interesting to see Garbutt’s editorial this week bemoaning the standards of riding out in the sticks near Croydon or wherever the CW lodgings are.
“the rise of the rubbish rider is a step too far… ”
His solution is an interesting one:
“There’s much to be said for being a member of a traditional cycling club. So many of today’s newbie riders would certainly benefit from the experience”
All sitting comfortably next to the index:
Turn to page 22 for “CW’s latest sportive triumph”.
If CW had perhaps spent more time supporting the grass roots of cycling and club life and less time chasing the sportive dollar, Garbutt’s specious comments might make sense. The last Gran Bloato sportive I stumbled across didn’t have a club jersey in sight, no-one said a word to anyone else and I had to weave around the zigzag wanderers. Such is the egocentrism of the current bike boom; all digitised high score tables, massively expensive bikes and extortionately priced bike rides. The Comic is at the heart of the desperate race for bike boom quids, selling their past and readership for a few cheap energy gels and a some loose marketing copy pebbledashed with the words ‘epic legendary sufferfest’.
Today was a rest day, of sorts. I rode directly to work and then back. If I’m absolutely honest, I have been daydreaming about yesterday all day. It’s not quite a Belgian Classic or the rainbow bands, but winning on Burrington has made my year.
I still subscribe to Cycling Weekly. There are many racing cyclists who have cancelled their subscriptions due to the general absence of anything that might be deemed relevant to the actual racing of an actual racing bicycle. I have more than a few back issues which i’ve been using for research and there is a staggering difference in the level of reporting then and now. It’s an old argument and I’m not about to refresh it. The closest I came to cancelling was last year when they hid the top ten of the BBAR competition somewhere in the results page. This was after Jeff Jones had set a staggering new comp record for the 12 hour. They used up the space instead with a 3 page spread on the ‘Cycling Weekly Classic Sportive’, a 60 mile bun run round some shitty lanes near CW towers in Croydon. The star interviewee, questioned after his epic battle with the southern wilds, was editor Robert Garbutt. It couldn’t have been more onanistic if the sportiviste hacks had lined up a group circle jerk and spuffed en masse over their own bylines.
Lately they have drifted back across to the world of lightweight racing cycles due to the staggering success of Sir Bradley of Wiggins. There may even be a dawning recognition that the next wave of cycling talent is more likely to be found at the counter of Krispy Kreme’s feeder-house than it is in a sportive.*
So obviously it has been a further highlight to find my name on the Cycling Weekly website this week. They have redeemed themselves and I can now forgive their bi-monthly sportive pull-out full bongo open-oyster lynskeytitanium technicolour guide. With any luck I might even be in print come Thursday. In amongst the writerly despair I secretly long to find my name in bold print at the front of the Comic; such is the dualistic nature of modern existence. It’s happened once before, about two years ago. I still dine out on the memory.
*sportivistes: there is room for your not-a-race-races within the broad church of cycling and the press. FACT. there also happens to be room for other disciplines of cycling beyond the ever-growing hydra and utter cash cow that is next year’s sportive calendar.