Vive le Tour!

A friend recently asked the lady wife ‘why are you going to Yorkshire this weekend?’. We guffawed at her innocence, living in a world where cycling is merely a very occasional metaphor for life, rather than the opposite, where life is a thinly veiled masquerade, belying the fundamental truth of cycling.

Anyhow, this weekend sees the Grand Depart visit these shores for the first time since London in 2007. I went to that one, it was quite exciting, but as Ned Boulting recently commented, outside of Hyde Park and the circuit it was less of a success. The exponential rise in cycling since that point means that this is going to be a big one.

I’m looking forward to seeing the riders, grabbing a few tawdry but essential French commercial trinkets lobbed out by the caravan, and enjoying the spectacle of the greatest show on earth.

The mother lives near Bradford. We are descending en famille, with the addition of Steve Douchebag. He sent me a salutary warning this morning:

He’ll have to wear leg warmers and ride at the back.

Meanwhile, a clubmate is warming up for the tour by attempting to ride as many stages and mountains and hills in as short a time as possible.

Looking at the stats makes me feel nauseous. This kind of extreme riding is terrifying. I’ve heard they sleep in muddy fields for 30 minutes at a time, ride through darkness, sleepride, the works.

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Anarchy

I’ve been waiting for about 345 days for the Tour to start. It has been a tantalising build up, with the tangible possibility that the Manx Missile might be wearing the yellow jersey for the first time. As any fule kno, there is always a bigger gorilla. In this case, it wasn’t the Teutonic silverback, Lord Greipel, but an even bigger simian: the stage was won by the Orica Green Edge team bus.

People are you ready? To do the Bus Stop!

It’s hard to understate the chaos that follows when you have bus neatly parked in the way of a charging peloton about 11 minutes away from the biggest and most ferocious all-out sprint of the Tour. It’s reassuring that even the greatest show on earth is occasionally hit by rank ineptitude. It confirms one of my longstanding philosophies – that people are just people, and higher up people have usually been doing something longer than those of us with lower down, but are no more worthy of our fawning admiration than those organising the local crashfest at a rainy airfield near you. And they are equally prone to completely messing things up.

In this case, they should have neutralised the race. That way they wouldn’t have had the crashes and an opening marred by confusion and surrealism. My favourite quote came from Marc Madiot. He’s a bit crazy anyway and always good value. he had this to say about Vicente Tortajada, president of the race commissaires:

“This Spaniard, whom I don’t know, can go back home.”

Which for some strange reason reminds of ‘People called Romanes they go the house“.

Here’s Marc Madiot when calm:

And here are some other moments of awe-inspiring madness from the Tour, starting with the photo-hungry policeman who showed just how gymnastic you can be with a compound fracture of your fibia and tibia:

And moving on to the inspired choice to route a peloton along a seaweed-strewn, greasy tidal causeway:

And two of the beastliest crashes ever seen:

In the crazed and demented stage today Johnny Hoogerland managed to hit the deck. He’s a professional crashmagnet with a bagload of previous and 33 stitches as testament to his mad skills.

I imagine the organisers will be hoping for a quieter day tomorrow. It’s unlikely.

 

Tour De France Visits Leeds

It’s one of the more improbable news items, but no less exciting for all that. The Tour is coming! I am already making plans to spend the weekend in Yorkshire. Luckily, my mother lives in Bradford so we have a base from which to catch both days.

I’ve never seen the Tour in mainland Europe, but I did go and watch when the Grand Depart visited London in 2007. Here’s a nice home spun clip trawled from youtube of Cancellara absolutely gunning it in the World Champion’s Jersey:

Visits from the Tour have been progressively more exciting. In 1974 the greatest show on earth rolled up and down a newly constructed bypass near Plympton. Riders were distinctly non-plussed.

It didn’t grace these shores again until 1994, when things were a little bit better. They took in the ‘Col De Ditchling Beacon’ en route to a stage finish in Brighton. The two days were successful, at least partly because of the ‘Boardman effect’.

The visit in 2014 promises to be a high watermark for British Cycling. Cavendish and Wiggins have become global cycling legends of the highest order and Team Sky is the dominant outfit in the professional ranks. Yorkshire is a hotbed of cycling and I’m sure the Huddersfield Star Wheelers, East Bradford, Oldham Century, Airedale Olympic and Otley Cycling Clubs are breathless with excitement at the prospect of seeing the stars at close quarters on their local roads.

It might change the strava top tens a little bit though.

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.

Tom Danielson’s R5ca

I have an R5 which i use for special occasions, and when the weather is dry. It hasn’t left the house this year.

Tom Danielson also had an R5, but it was a ‘CA’, an incredibly rare stealth version. The past tense is important here. Danielson was caught up yesterday’s rather gnarly crash on a very straight bit of road.

A minor frame repair needed

I reckon with a big plank of wood and some leverage he should be able to cold set the frame back in.

Tour De France

Le Tour starts this Friday. I am in a state of serious excitement. As is everyone else I know.

Here’s a factoid to whet your appetite:

George Hincapie is due to start his 17th Tour. This makes him the outright record holder ahead of Joop Zoetemelk. Interesting, Zoetemelk finished every single one. Anyway, here’s a picture which is always, always worth a repost. It warns of the dangers of riding 2,500 miles every July.

Oh my god, his BRAIN IS IN HIS LEG.

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.