Tour of Britain

The Tour of Britain starts in a couple of weeks time. It promises to be an extended lap of honour for Lord Bradders of Wigginton, not to mention Sir Mark of Cavendish. I’m really excited; it’s the first one i’ll be able to actually watch since 2006. Time flies, and I can’t quite believe it’s been 6 years.

Martin Pederson won. Famous names in the top ten included Pozzato, Nuyens, Rogers, and a young Andy Schleck in 8th.

Mark Cavendish as a stagiare for T mobile, being interviewed prior to the Bradford stage start.
Nick Nuyens, classics winner
Brian Holm and Malcolm Elliott
rogers and vandevelde hanging out in Bradford

Milling around at the start is the best way to get up close to the riders and teams. This year i’ll be watching it from the top of Merrivale Hill on Dartmoor where i’ll be competing in a team hillclimb in the morning to celebrate the race coming through. The evening before i’m doing the Barnstaple town centre crits which herald the start of the next day’s stage from the sleepy North Devon borough.

It’s a great time to be a cyclist.

 

 

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Etape De La Défoncé

Adjective

défoncé m. (f. défoncée, m. plural défoncés, f. plural défoncées)

  1. (slang) fucked, wasted, high (on drugs)

Verb

défoncé m. (f défoncée, m plural défoncés, f plural défoncées)

  1. Past participle of défoncer

Yesterday was the final stage for two of the most important stage races in living memory. The Tour De France and the Etape De La Défoncé. Unfortunately i couldn’t ride both so i opted for the latter. I came home after the stage race to watch the former, and marvelled at Wiggins performing the leadout, giving it a flick of the elbow on the last corner of the Champs-Élysées, leaving Cav to power up the straight to take his 4th win in a row. Later on the podium, Wiggo unleashed another impeccably timed one-liner; “We’re just going to draw the raffle tickets now”.

Cav and Wiggo get ready for the Etape de la Defonce
Wiggo re-enacts his fist pump for the EDD crowd.

I’ve been utterly overwhelmed by this year’s Tour. There’s not an awful lot more to say. My Mother rang me to discuss Both Wiggo’s and Cav’s victories yesterday. My Mother-in-Law cites Bradley Wiggins as her new hero. Everyone at work is talking about it. It’s on the front cover of The Times as a special wraparound poster – there is nothing else apart from the spectacular sight of the yellow jersey in full flight.

astounding

Whilst the Etape De La Défoncé may not have seared itself into the collective consicousness of a nation in quite the same way, it has left an indelible impression on the psyche of the participating peloton. It’s a terrific race, but pretty tough on the legs. I felt much stronger yesterday and rode much more conservatively at the start, despite us defending a slim lead. I rode in the bunch and did everything i could to avoid expending any energy.

John forgoes the team talk in favour of a team ‘stare’ instead.

John was in yellow and having a great race, things were getting spicy when suddenly a car came across a roundabout and he swerved onto the raised lip, knocking his gears out and ending his race. One of the amazing things about racing in Wales is that the Marshalls and NEG have the power to stop traffic. This leads to all but closed roads. Occasionally someone squeaks onto the course and causes problems. The NEG do an amazing job.

the red and gold reflected in the glorious weekend sunshine

When it got to the first major climb the race just exploded; riders started going backwards. One of the Kingston Wheelers took it on from way out for the time bonus and it just went mental. I found a tempo and rode back across. For the first time in a road race i found myself overtaking lots of riders and holding my own right at the front of the peloton. I began to bridge across to the main group, riding cautiously on the descent before tacking back across again, meeting up with Tom Ilet who was having a terrific race in the red and gold. Christian also was hurting himself recklessly and doing damage to the bunch in the process. It was exciting. I then went for the little ring to spin over the top and ride on with the break. It didn’t quite work out, the chain unshipped and wedged between the seat stay and the chainring. I couldn’t flick it back on so had to stop. It took me ages to get it back on, by which time riders had come flooding past and the break had gone. I was left in a futile chase across the valley to try to get back on, but didn’t make it. Again, i thought i must have been a long way down, but there were big groups behind me on the road. I got in with one of them, but wasn’t quite on their rhythm so succeeded only in disrupting their smooth chaingang until i managed to get in sync. Then my chain came off AGAIN. And that was it, i came home further back.

Strada Cycles holding onto yellow… by one second

It was a missed opportunity really; i wouldn’t have won or anything, but i definitely could have ridden for/with Tom and Christian and held on at the front, there were a number of big climbs to go. Tom took 5th overall and Christian bagged points to move up to 3rd cat. Sam had a tasty crash, but luckily somersaulted into a soggy and grassy ditch, rather than the unforgiving tarmac.

I’ll have to go back next year, it’s a brilliant race and is amazingly well-organised by Will Pring and his team of volunteers. I went from the euphoria of the stage win, to the slough of despond that is getting dropped, then back to the giddy heights of mixing it up on the climbs and seeing other people go backwards, then back down again, before finishing on a high because of the camaraderie and support from all the riders in the race. Riding with the Strada chaps was a blast, they are gentlemen all.

It was an amazing weekend to be riding a stage race with a rider in yellow.

Tour De France *spoilers*

i’m a bit annoyed today. now that every man, woman and dog is an ardent cycling fan, the prevalence of spoilers is becoming a real problem. i work during the day, this unfortunately precludes me from watching the stage. as a result, i like to watch the stage in the evening, either on highlights or if i race home fast enough, catch the last hour on itv4+1.

all my efforts have come to nothing on several stages lately because someone has posted a spoiler somewhere on the internet. it doesn’t matter where, the pervasive dominance of social media is the usual suspect. it’s a spoiler insofar as it spoils all tension and excitement. so here’s a plea to those of you so excited to have discovered cycling, and finding out that after about 12 months you’ve finally got your head round the fact that some riders simply can’t win the race, despite winning stages, and how cycling is a nefarious and massively exciting sport, and you’ve served your apprentice and can now pass comment on events with timespun liggetisms – please don’t tell me who won. and please don’t post ‘thor the mighty hammer’, or ‘the manx express’ as a status update. it’s beyond annoying.