despite it being common knowledge that serious (and not so serious) roadies often shave their legs, it's something that still intrigues many of the civilian population. umpteen reasons have been put forward as to why this is the case, but straightforwardly, most of us do it because 'tis a part of our cycling heritage and at least shows some intent to be considered a proper cyclist, as opposed to just a bloke or girl with a bike. you are of course, more than welcome to trot out whichever of the common reasons for so doing that you think might appeal to a captive audience, but ultimately, you either do or you don't.
why, doesn't really make any real difference.
it is hardly unusual, therefore, that there are products available to aid this smoothness of skin, even if the majority hadn't actually considered the cyclist at point of origin. i think that quite likely true of ursa major's three musketeer traveler set. it's just a hunch, but it seems much more likely that your face was uppermost in their minds.
but that too carries with it a great burden of cycling heritage. if i may be so bold as to quote from william fotheringham's excellent fallen angel - the passion of fausto coppi, it seems many too many of today's racers are guilty of ignoring one of the more obscure rules. "At Bianchi, much was made of personal presentation. The gregari would be sent back to their rooms to shave if they came down in the mornings with stubbly chins, and if they didn't have clean socks and jerseys they would be made to change them."
there's not a lot ursa major can do about the socks and jerseys part of the equation, but the travel set would seem ideal for the cyclist away from home perhaps subject to the strictures of the 1950s bianchi team. i doubt very much that the modern day cycle team manager would gain major brownie points by sending his riders back to their rooms to shave off their designer five o'clock shadows, but if velominati were to surreptitiously add just such a suggestion to the rules, one can only imagine the effect on team presentations.
the constituents are thus: three 35ml bottles of fantastic face wash, stellar shave cream and 4-in-1 essential face tonic. also included in the little drawstring bag is a sample of ursa major face balm and one face wipe in a sachet.
as is usual for blokes, i failed to read the instructions on the back of the shave cream, other than the direction to squeeze 'a nickel sized amount' onto my finger and massage onto my already wetted face. well, to be honest, i did read that bit, but then attempted to foam the shave cream by working it with my shaving brush. all that succeeded in doing was removing all the cream previously smeared upon my face. ignoring this last brushy step, and simply leaving the cream where it was resulted in an intriguing shave. intriguing in a good way.
and if i can be just slightly woolly for a brief moment, my face felt beyond smoooooth.
i've no idea if i worked these three in the order intended, but after shaving i smothered the visage in face wash, followed by the face tonic and rounded nicely off with a dollop of the face balm sample. vitality and subtle aroma deftly applied, fausto would have been mightily impressed. add in my nice clean socks and a stylishly laundered jersey and why would i have need of uci points?
but in much the same way that apple computer label some of their machinery as pro in order to foster a certain faux elite amongst their customer base, there is no strict need to pay literal attention to those instructions on the stellar shave cream. for when they say face simply substitute the word leg and immediately you're back in the land of the cyclist. and in line with my selfless experimentation, i have no reservations over recommending the shaving cream to defy any hint of hirsute behaviour by those honed thigh and calf muscles.
rather obviously, 35ml of each of these products won't last forever, but in accordance with ursa major's traveler set nomenclature, they're not really meant to. each individual item can be purchased in a considerably larger format for residential use. an event like the eneco tour would seem the ideal length of time for just such a drawstringed cloth bag.
the ursa major three musketeer traveler set retails at an incredibly economic $15 (£10) and can be ordered directly from the ursa major website
monday 19th august 2013..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
two friends of mine are involved with coaching at manchester velodrome, and on tuesday evenings they offer derny sessions. these harbour the delight of being all things to all track cyclists; the derny starts at a relatively low pace and over many revolutions of the track, the speed of the derny is gradually increased until it can go no faster. this allows beginners to drop out when the pace exceeds their abilities, ultimately leaving only the best of the best.
on one particular tuesday evening recently, a couple of track professionals joined the affray in order to gain a few kilometres of speedwork prior to the next round of the revolution series, however, as luck would have it, also present for the evening was dutch wonderwoman, marianne vos. her manager asked if it was ok by them if ms. vos tagged on behind the dernies for a workout, to which they both replied in the affirmative. however, prior to moving onto manchester's boards, she spent almost two hours on a turbo trainer at trackside.
as the pace of the tiny motorbikes increased, the beginners dropped off, leaving only the (male) professional riders and vos. eventually the dernies could go no faster, and after a few revolutions at that pace, the professionals dropped out all but exhausted. leaving only marianne vos still circling manchester velodrome on a smaller gear than that employed by her male counterparts, exhibiting 'a remarkably fluid pedalling style' and apparently showing little sign of being troubled by her almost six hours of training.
while she rode the turbo in track centre followed by several kilometres of perambulation behind the derny, i'm pretty sure that marianne vos thought only that she was cycling. i doubt very much whether she thought of her training exploits as women's cycling. that is a label attached only by the rest of us, and it does us no favours to know that to be the case.
having won the women's olympic road race in 2012, and the world road race championship in 2006 and 2012 as well as being world cyclocross champion, marianne vos is no doubt suitably remunerated for her abilities, but i'd venture not as well as her male counterparts. that the situation is thus is at least in part due to the current disparity between the sexes, professional or otherwise.
the three grand tours along with all the one day classics are essentially the province of the male professional cyclist, and due to the popularity of such events, they gain wall to wall television coverage. as any british football fan will be well aware, tv money equates to commercial sponsorship and subsequently to obscene salaries being paid to the sport's finest practitioners. on a much lower scale, the same applies to professional cyclists, but almost exclusively male professional cyclists.
stef wyman, husband and general factotum to the highly successful helen wyman also manages the matrix fitness racing academy, a successful women's racing team. nick hussey is the founder of cycle clothing company vulpine and one of the matrix fitness team's current sponsors. it is their contention that if potential sponsors of women's cycling were made aware of the costs involved, perhaps more would be inclined to place their logos on some female jerseys.
"Stef is obsessed by doing the best to develop women's racing cycling. He has had a hand in the development of the careers of world and current Olympic champions. It was one of many reasons I got involved with his team for 2013."
stef wyman:"I've never seen women's racing in a better place." two members of the current wiggle-honda women's team (danni king and jo rowsell) are former members of stef's matrix fitness team.
"Nobody actually knows how much it costs to sponsor a team," pointed out the man from vulpine, "and that might be preventing development of (this side of) the sport. More would enter if the finances were transparent. The value becomes self-evident."
stef wyman of necessity points out perhaps the glaringly obvious: "Money means progress. It certainly enables getting elite athletes out of tiring menial jobs to make ends meet, and turn them into far better full time athletes, who have time to rest and train. It means equipment, race fees, transport, nutrition, mechanical support. It means a great deal."
so what could the prospective sponsor of a women's cycle race team expect in return for their faith and financial input? i confess i was somewhat surprised at the figures being discussed; surely these are way too low? a budget of £250,000 will establish a high-level professional team, creating a twelve rider team. the sponsor(s) get all the trimmings such as signed jerseys, liveried team cars, vip packages, rides in the car, photo shoots at their premises etc. if the sponsor happens to be a cycling fan, what's not to like?
£100,000 creates an eight rider team, not dissimilar to the current matrix fitness racing academy, but much improved in terms of race preparation, media communication and corporate opportunities. which rather highlights what must be stef wyman's current operating budget, and just how much he has been able to achieve with it.
£50,000 provides co-sponsorship of a non-professional team that'll be part of the televised tour of britain and consequent benefits thereof. all the opportunities and trimmings of the £100,000 budget, but shared with another sponsor.
though the comparison is hardly a valid one, considering the £250,000 budget is more or less constrained to funding a uk-based team, teamsky paid way more than that to buy out the contracts of wiggins and unnamed others from opposing teams, and you can bet your bottom dollar, euro or pound note that those death stars didn't slide in under stef's proposed budget.
the unione cyclist international offer no guidelines as to a minimum wage for women riders, they do, however, propose a minimum wage for male pro-continental riders, currently around £27,000. even riders on the british cycling performance plan are in receipt of at least £24,000. the olympic cycling budget is somewhere close to £27 million. suddenly women's cycling looks like really good value for the sponsors, but hardly the best of deals for the women wearing the logo'd lycra.
an oldie but goodie, worth quoting at this point how do you make a million out of cycling? start with two million.. i figure there are no professional riders, male or female, who entered the sport in order to get rich. ability and luck can obviously bring appropriate financial rewards to the few, but for the many, especially in the women's branch of the sport, penury in exchange for hours and hours of hard training, travelling and racing seems rather iniquitous.
as stef wyman points out "One of my riders juggles four jobs to allow her to race. She earns less than £6,000 from all of them combined. The £250k budget would allow for a salary to be paid to every rider, a rough guideline of £6,000 to £9,000 being a minimum basic in year one. Top riders would, of course, expect to earn more than this, and rightly so." wyman continued, "For a non-professional team, I'd suggest a figure more in line with £3k to £6k as a starting point. These aren't earth shattering figures, but they are figures; they are starting points. That would be in the first year as a professional team and I'd certainly hope those figures would increase as swiftly as the riders develop."
i think you'd agree that a teenage girl seriously intent on carving a career as a professional rider would need to be verging on obsession with the sport. for it seems unlikely that even a lengthy career would ever bring that holiday home in the bahamas. but, in the spirit that nothing comes from nothing, financial investment coupled with serious aspiration and encouragement from both british cycling and the uci to elevate women's cycling to a comparable level with that of the male branch of the sport, could make sweeping changes.
as those who watched lizzie armitstead take silver behind a dominating marianne vos at last year's olympic road-race will surely agree, women's cycling can often provide far more exciting entertainment than its male opposite number. and knowing that to be the case, it remains something of a mystery as to why it retains its distinctly second division status. why not, as has been suggested, run a women's tour de france over a shortened version of the same course, on the same day as the men's tour? the audience is already there, as is the infrastructure, cameras and everything else required.
it's an obvious fact, but one worth re-stating, that sponsors delight in television coverage. provide women's cycle racing with a healthy dose of that, and £250,000 might be considered just the starting point. as nick hussey mentioned "I didn't sponsor this team for a direct business benefit, simply because I don't make race clothing. My motivation was simply that I get to see my logo on a top team jersey, which is exciting in itself, and I feel good about supporting some seriously talented athletes. It certainly does us no harm being on the telly and in race photography so often though!"
having attended the recent british road race championships in glasgow, where the women's and men's races raced the same course, differing only in number of laps covered, i'd be hard pushed to say that one race was any less entertaining or exciting than the other. that there is such a huge discrepancy between one and the other ought to be seen as an enormous embarrassment particularly to the sport's ruling bodies. it's supposed to be a society based on equality, but it seems some are still more equal than others.
however, both vulpine's nick hussey and matrix fitness' stef wyman are to be congratulated for not only bringing this state of affairs to our collective attention, but introducing a much needed transparency with regard to sponsorship budgets. hopefully their vanguard action will attract a few more willing sponsors to the women's side of the sport.
but never forget; it's still just entertainment.
stef can be contacted directly, if you wish to enquire about sponsorship opportunities, on: email@example.com
sunday 18th august 2013..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
for no particular reason, i can still remember albums from as far back as the 1970s by bands that not only do not still exist, but never did much at the time. things to make and do by angletrax, to keep from crying by comus, oasis by a band called 'o', and even, if memory serves, a self-titled album by lone star. the latter's only album (that i know of) was produced by roy thomas baker, perhaps more famously regarded for his production duties for queen in their earlier days.
i still regret not having purchased the comus album though.
there is very little reason for my having recalled any of the above, but only the other evening i simply could not recall the name of the band lone star, and spent a frustrating evening searching many online discographies of the producer, all to no avail. i'm a tad surprised that midst all the successful albums on which roy thomas baker was featured behind the desk, this was not mentioned on at least one of them. it just goes to show that not everything in the known world has been successfully catalogued online.
then lo and behold, as i got dressed the following morning, the name sprang rather easily to mind. go figure.
in the late seventies i was attending art college, and i have pleasant memories of invading the back shop at bruce millers in holburn street, and flicking through the large selection of albums, when there was still a reasonable canvas for an album cover. those were the days when radio one would play the entire new yes album and i could nip into millers the next day and place an advance order.
and that's exactly where i came across at the sound of the bell by a group revelling in the name pavlov's dog. ivan pavlov, a russian physiologist set a series of experiments observing dogs' response to the anticipation of food. in the course of these experiments, he ultimately used a bell as a neutral stimulus. whenever the dogs were fed, he rang a bell. after repeating this procedure several times, he was able to simply ring the bell, and the dogs would exhibit the same behaviour as they did when food was also involved.
not unnaturally, in the manner of such things, an automatic response to any form of stimulus became known as a pavlovian response. the very existence of this record demonstrated just exactly what pavlov demonstrated, for the drummer engaged to play on the album was the inimitable bill bruford. and my pavlovian response to finding the album in the record racks of bruce millers was to acquire a copy purely on the basis of that knowledge. disappointingly, i could not recall any of the music contained therein, having to resort to itunes (where there is a brief selection of recordings by the band) for a brief reprise. either my musical taste has changed immeasurably, or i was blinded by the light.
but pavlov did not pass away in 1936 in vain, for the pavlovian instinct is alive and kicking on the front of an excellent pella sport jersey emblazoned with the legend la mitica and coloured in a very italian/bianchi manner. la mitica since you ask (as did i) is a ride very much in the tradition of l'eroica and is roughly translated as the myth. for the ride has been expressly designed to travel through the hills of castellania, training ground not only of luigi malabrocca, twice consecutive winner of the giro's black jersey for last finisher, but of both fausto and serse coppi.
a desirable mythology.
and there is where my reaction bears uncanny similarity to that of pavlov's dogs. in common with many cycling aficionados across the world, mere mention of the name coppi elicits an acqusitive response that has brought me several books about the great man and an overwhelming desire to own one of those iconic bianchi jerseys, even though the bike shed contains three colnagos.
italy's pella sport are quite rightly rather proud of their association with la mitica, providing the official jerseys for those who wish to avail themselves of such apparel. aside from a bizarre sense of pride wearing a coppi embellished italian jersey along the highways, byways and coffee shop of a small scottish island, it does everything it ought to do particularly well. the fit is great, the pockets will swallow far more than ought to be carried in polite company, and teamed with a pair of pella sports bibshorts, there is no doubt that i was the spitting image of fausto coppi. the quarter length zip is of fine constitution and the sleeves of admirable length. the only missing nod to modernism is a lack of a zipped pocket in which to conceal coffee money. but i somehow doubt this was uppermost in the minds of fausto and serse.
rather iniquitously, i cannot recommend a retailer near you from which a verisimilitude might be purchased, for in one of those cases where it's not what you know, but who you know, pella sport, at the behest of ben higgins of custom performance kit, the uk pella distributor, very generously fedex'd my review sample direct from italy. you can almost smell the strade bianche.
from the enviable desirability of this particular jersey, and the quality of the paired bibshorts, this is highly desirable cycling attire.
saturday 17th august 2013..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
while i was looking the other way, food seems to have become fashionable. well, to qualify that statement, i do know that eating is somewhat of a necessary function, and provided that which you scoff features just the sort of constituents necessary for health and goodness, all will be well, but never before had i realised that food is as much at the mercy of fashion as is clothing, carbon and designer wheels.
the sad fact is that, in retrospect, i now realise this has been happening pretty much all my life, and i have been not so much ignoring it as oblivious to its existence.
in my early career as an apprentice rock star, tom, harry and i used to play a nice little restaurant in the ayrshire equivalent of the middle of nowhere. it was a nice middle class sort of venue with a small stage in the corner that could only just encompass my little drumset. the other two stood on the floor in front, amplifiers crammed into the nooks and crannies left by the bass drum and cymbal stands. just as in contemporary times, guitarists seemed to be perennially accompanied by endless lengths of cable, most of which seemed to find their way under tom toms and over bass drums.
i can recall the very statement made at every gig i think i ever played. having draped several cables over substantial parts of the kit, tom would always say "if any of those cables are in your way, just leave them where they are." it's worth quoting even today (well, i think it is).
however, to return to my original point, such as it is, i can recall the bar supper menu featuring scampi in a basket with a side order of fries. not that i spend much time or money in hotels or restaurants nowadays, but it strikes me that the latter delight has seemingly fallen out of favour. similarly, prawn cocktail in marie rose sauce; does anyone still serve such niceties? if they do, there's no way it's as common as it once was.
even vegetarianism seems to have been the subject of fashionable statement. though my early years as a veggie usually resulted in being served a main course minus the main course (i.e. the veg), there was a period when there were vegetarian restaurants springing up all over the place. currently, it seems to be gluten free that finds favour.
but aside from dietary requirements, flavoursomeness is just as fickle. though it will disappoint many who think i settle for lowest common denominator when in the big city, i am inclined to frequent a certain chain of pizza establishments in which my eyes are almost definitely larger than my stomach. thus, having downed an entire italian deep-pan pizza (usually with jalapenos as a part of the topping), i am sorely tempted by the dessert menu. recently, this seems to have been invaded by something named as salted caramel cheesecake; as bizarre as sweet and sour in my opinion. why diffuse the sweetness of the caramel with its kryptonite opposite number?
through the auspices of tv cook, nigella lawson, it's a flavour that seems to have inveigled its way into many corners of calorific overkill. the new york times even featured an article as far back as 2008 on this odd combination, claiming that it had been a favourite of french and american chefs for many a year, but the introduction of haagen dazs salted caramel ice-cream in april of that year brought an 'elite culinary obsession to the (american) mass market'.
it is, therefore, a safe assumption that when a flavour such as this reaches the sporting market, it has very definitely arrived. gu energy's salty yeti (i kid you not) features on the foil sachet containing their latest maltodextrin/fructose gel that offers us honed athletes a 100 calorie shot of carbohydrates just at the point when that headwind threatens to make the homeward journey a tad lengthier and slower than ideal.
i'm patently aware that i rarely expend sufficient energy to need instant replenishment while still in the saddle, but even the hardy can be caught out on occasion. and though even that suggestion is less than personally applicable, one particular ride this past week changed from a calm pedal along uiskentuie strand to a heads down, no nonsense, mindless boogie, if only because bike, wheels and rider had need of emulating a belgian classics rider. there's every likelihood that passing motorists (in the opposite direction of course) would have mistaken me for tom boonen.
you can, therefore, understand my bodily requirement for some form of calorific reinforcement, easily brought to hand by one of those yeti-fronted foil sachets. though the gold coloured liquid contained within rather dispels any notion that it truly features real salted caramel, by heck it tastes exactly as it did on that cheesecake. and judging by the fact that i still resembled tom boonen on arrival in bowmore, it does pretty much what it says on the yeti.
gu energy gels contain no fat, and no protein, but 32 grams of energy and 100% vitamin c. and with reference to fashionable diets, there's no gluten, no dairy and no caffeine. a single gel retails at £1.60, while a box of eight costs £12.80. these ought to be available from the gu energy from the end of august.
additionally, salty the yeti is going to receive more than just his fifteen minutes of fame through gu energy's 'where's salty?' campaign, inviting folks to upload, email or tweet images of the yeti round the world. the most creative entry will receive a free box of gels at the end of the year.
friday 16th august 2013..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i am particularly fortunate in being a healthy individual. i can confidently answer when asked if i am well, that i am always well. i've not visited the doctor since 1994, and even that was as a result of being involved in a road traffic accident and having spent two weeks in hospital. in eighteen years, i've yet to have a day off sick. i do not wear this as a badge of honour, it's simply a statement of fact. rather conveniently, i have promoted cycling as being the reason for my well-being, probably to the point of irritation.
i am also well aware that as the years roll past, i am singularly blessed in this respect, as many of my colleagues and friends seem beset with niggling injuries and illnesses, some more serious than others. because i intend to live until i'm 120 (there's still a lot of cycling to be done), i do not consider myself yet past middle age, but i'd be rather delighted if i can retain this level of health for a good number of years to come. i want to be as fit as the mighty dave t when i reach his pensionable years.
not everyone, however, manages to avoid doctors, surgeons and hospitals for such a comparably long period of time. chris boulton for example. a man rapidly catching my own age bracket, in his younger years he was an active man who appears to have had the financial wherewithal and aspiration to learn to fly. not entirely surprisingly, part of this process involves a medical exam which ultimately provides a certificate proving that the applicant is healthy enough to be left in charge of an aircraft. that is the point at which chris boulton's life took a turn for the worse.
having been informed of a heart murmur during previous medicals, but advised that it was of little significance, the result of this examination escalated that diagnosis "I don't like the sound of your murmur; you need to go for some tests, just to be sure". that heart murmur required open-heart surgery in february of 1998 to replace the mitral valve. "I knew I probably had a serious problem.". chris boulton was only 35 at the time.
my own period in hospital some four years earlier resulted only in some plastic surgey on my right arm, but i know how long it took to regain some fitness and sufficient movement in the muscles to allow normal cycling once more. however, there was never going to be any problem busting a gut when i could once more grasp a pair of drop bars properly.
chris had far more to overcome than that. the heart is a rather clever muscle that lets us mostly undertake physical activities that seem beyond our present capabilities. cycle yourself silly over a period of time, and the heart gets stronger. tubes and pipes that are employed to shift litres of blood around get progressively larger to accommodate such honed athleticism. except if they're made of metal and inserted by a surgeon, actually they don't.
"I walked, or rather shuffled, a few paces, using the edge of the bed to balance, before collapsing into a chair. The journey back into the bed felt like running a marathon." not unnaturally, it took a lengthy period to get back into any form of sport, though a reintroduction was made via the indoor ski slope at tamworth snowdome in the midlands. a week later, he was standing on top of a mountain with his mate Kev ready to start a descent.
in 2008, some ten years after his operation, chris entered the london marathon, but by the halfway point, "I began to feel awful". while continuing to jog for the purposes of maintaining a reasonable level of fitness, a year later a chance remark brought him into contact with modern day cycling, signing up with some friends to ride a sportive, though sensibly opting for the 45 mile distance. training for the event convinced him that all was well, and only a few weeks and with a few more sportives on the horizon, chris and friends had graduated from clunky mountain bikes to shiny carbon fibre with skinny wheels and bendy bars.
road-racing ensued, but at this point chris was made physically aware that his non-adapting heart valve was not designed to accept the strains and stresses of this particular form of competitive cycling. having managed to record a 59:58 time for a 25 mile time-trial in 1981, he resolved to submit his sporting aspirations to the world of the time-trial, with the goal of once more riding a sub one hour 25.
though the cover lists the publishers as the choir press, this is, in fact, a company that enables authors to self-publish their own manuscripts. i offer this as no criticism; in fact, very much the contrary, for presumably in the absence of a dedicated editor, the narrative is remarkably well constituted, proof-read and written. i wouldn't go quite so far as to say it made for compulsive reading, but i have reviewed books from bona-fide publishers that have offered less by way of professionalism. but it is, to borrow from football commentary, a book of two halves.
from the introduction until page 50, the book is principally concerned with the author's comeback from heart surgery, placing himself and his sporting abilities and achievements in agreeable context. commencing with the chapter entitled 'Racing again' we enter the world of reminiscing, comparing how things used to be some thirty years ago with the way we are now. there is reference made to boulton's lack of opportunity in the road racing world due to his heart surgery "I knew that road-racing was sadly well out of reach for someone with my level of fitness and in view of my heart issues I was not able to cope with rapid changes of pace. My ability to climb had also not improved with passing age."
however, the remainder of the chapter is given over to anecdotes from the author's past, and subsequent chapters follow a similar pattern concerning time-trialling, elderly cyclists met in the course of attachment to the club scene, things that cyclists do, and the intricacies of cycle clubs. boulton also provides his opinions and recollections on training then and now, diet, and a paean to his dad, who, though having acted as his directeur sportif, in fact knew very little about cycling or bicycles.
the reverie is, on occasion, just a tad too sentimental for my liking, and though those of a certain age might well enjoy his reminiscences and comparisons, it's debatable whether the same could be said of today's new mavericks. the fact that chris boulton is hardly a name cyclist with an impressive palmares to his credit perhaps works both for and against him. riders such as sean kelly, robert millar, charly wegelius and rob hayles can undoubtedly offer cycling histories of a more international and professional nature, but one less identifiable with the ordinary man in the saddle. chris boulton is everyman, albeit with a metal mitral valve.
A 30-year cycle is a good book; if i'm honest, it may drag on just one chapter too long, but it succeeds well at what it set out to do. however, at the risk of upsetting cartoonist and illustrator patrick bower, i seriously doubt that the front cover illustration will encourage a favourable purchasing decision by those who judge books in this manner. set amongst its peers on the retail bookshelf it does not looketh well to its going. and that faux embossed style typeface is something of a typographical affront.
but i rather enjoyed it.
thursday 15th august 2013..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i fear that, in years past, i may have unfairly maligned the eneco tour, currently taking place in a europe near you. i may well have succumbed to more forcefully expressed opinion on behalf of the more mainstream cycle press, who frequently disparaged this particular event, mostly on the basis that it was neither one thing nor the other. but most likely based on its being the replacement for the tour of the netherlands, tour of belgium and tour of luxembourg. effectively, in one fell swoop, former president of the uci, hein verbruggen axed two races and amalgamated three into one.
that may not have been one of his most popular moves (if indeed mr verbruggen made any popular moves), but given that these combined events, now named after their energy sponsor eneco traversed most of the same terrain, the essence of the race surely ought to have remained the same? apart from the fact that it has yet to rdie itself into luxembourg. but if you separate emotion from fact, perhaps it might be possible to view the eneco tour simply as a week-long series of one-day classics.
that, as you may have inferred, is the manner in which i have opted to appraise the current event, having watched most of the eurosport televised stages this week. those fabulously narrow roads, edged with endless farmlands, and the wide variety of red brick buildings comprising all but unpronounceable towns and villages. there's a break of three or four with more than a minute on the peloton at 26km to go, but they get caught before the ten kilometre point. the only factor missing (it is august after all), is wind and rain.
i love it all.
however, for reasons i currently fail to comprehend, eurosport has the race on two separate channels. one is in the more traditional setting of featuring commentary by an irishman whose name i failed to catch, and the inimitable brian smith. more regularly i would be seen cheering in front of my imac's generously proportioned screen at the latter, for rarely have i met a scotsman with such a handle on race tactics and an uncanny sixth sense as to precisely what's going to happen and when. but then there's that other channel.
this seems to be named, rather tautologically, the eneco tour channel and features exactly the same coverage as eurosport's regular screening, but minus not only the irritating adverts, but any form of commentary. on occasion it comes across as a bit of a silent-movie; the only sounds immediately apparent are those of the helicopter, the occasional camera motorbike, and the finish-line commentator.
which brings me neatly onto an embarassment that should only be experienced in the solitude of your own living room.
though brian smith may be less than impressed that i eschewed his informative words for comparitive silence, he has unknowingly managed to gain revenge. for who amongst us has not considered the job of sports commentator to be one of those that 'anyone could do'? after all, how hard can it be? surely just a simple case of watching the tv footage and telling no-one else in the room who is doing what.
but if i cast my mind back just over a week to the pasta party that rounded off a fine day's ride of the falling rain, while sat at my window table watching those who had purportedly participated in the day's ride enter the port mor centre, i barely recognised a single individual. could these truly be the folks that only a few hours previously, had offered greetings as they passed on their shiny carbon fibre, clad in bright polyester and lycra, topped by a hardshell helmet? well, therein lies the difficulty. divest the honed athlete of his/her work clothes, and they often begin to resemble civilians.
so despite having seen many a photograph of the world tour professionals at home with the dog and the porsche, dress them in dark glasses, team kit and all manner of helmet styles, then have them ride rather quickly, and suddenly identification becomes a whole 'nuther bucket of tubulars. though team sky have thoughtfully applied their surnames and nationalities to the side panels of the jerseys, this is of no real use unless the cameraman aims in that direction. on tuesday's stage, i revelled in the thought that ian stannard might outsprint his breakaway companions, only to realise several tens of kilometres into the stage, that it was in fact matt hayman.
brian smith's day job is not in any jeopardy.
wednesday 14th august 2013..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
on my business card, an artifact that exists more for playful reasons than for any serious intent, it states that i am a senior publishing executive and that is at least partially true. though it would be stretching credibility just a bit too far to propound that i am any sort of executive, since i am entering my late fifties, i undoubtedly fulfil the senior part of the equation. even if that's not quite how it reads.
the former managing director of bruichladdich distillery mentioned that such a title would seem even more imposing were i to add 'northern hemisphere' to this mock title. so i did. thus, the finished article at the time read brian palmer. senior publishing executive (northern hemisphere). you have to admit, it has a certain authentic charm to it, even if it is a slight misrepresentation of the truth.
but it is incumbent on the modern publishing executive, i feel, to remain aux fais with the times; to take note of emerging trends and technologies and either investigate adopt them as he/she sees fit. thus my daily use of twitter, even if only for little more than a series of smart-ass one-liners, brings me face to face with so-called social media. having used it for nigh on four years, though i have yet to discover the point of it all, i believe i have as much of a handle on it as anyone else.
this has brought me to the point where i wish to make this known to any potential business associates i may chance upon in the course of my meaderings, and where better to start than that rapidly increasing legend on my business card? thus, the senior publishing executive has now also become a social media consultant, creating the impression that i am not one to stand still in modern times and modestly able to spot shiny new trends as they appear.
though i would love to spread this hypothetical knowledge to the art of photography, i am pretty confident that this is where i would be seen to be lacking. it would be hard for anyone to deny the veracity of that contained upon my business card, but it would likely take only a matter of minutes for anyone with normal vision to realise that photography is not a string with which i might tension my bow. of course, these things are all relative, but i think you know exactly of which i speak.
there are several, however, within the realms of cycling who are more than justified appending the word photographer to their business card and/or website, and i have been fotunate to have featured many of them on thewashingmachinepost. but they too have need of keeping their eye(s) on the ball, for no longer is photography a stationary target, mostly due to the emergence of digital slr cameras fielding the capability of hi-definition video.
unfortunately, it does not necessarily follow that an individual with an eye for stunning still imagery will successfully make the transition to that of film-maker. i'm most gratified to see that many of those who have adopted the moving image in addition to their stills capability seem to have done so most successfully, but it's not a tautological follow-on that such will always be the case. and it's not every photographer who wishes to become his/her own version of stephen spielberg.
take north-american photographer chris milliman for example. he and i have never physically met, but we do correspond from time to time, and i had the good fortune a couple of years ago to feature an interview with chris, a brief excerpt from which i'd like you to read before i continue.
'with the advent of apple's ipad, and the mode shift being prophesied for online media, the question was asked as to whether we'd rather settle for a photo of the super bowl's winning touchdown or a short video of the same. do you feel any pressure to move into the world of moving pictures via such as the canon 7d and hi-definition video?'
"No, I don't. I can see that the new video capabilities are super cool - my two new digi bodies are both 1080p capable - but still and video are so different, for me anyway. If you're asking, do I think video is going to replace still photography? I don't. There's crossover for sure, and you're seeing video in new places, but I'm not too surprised or upset about that."
as if to prove that the world and the individuals comprising it rarely, if ever, stand still, i received an e-mail from chris just a couple of days ago, a missive which commenced thus: "Remember that time I said I wasn't interested in video...?. that sentence was followed by two links to the videos presented below.
don't you just love it when a plan comes together?
tuesday 13th august 2013..........................................................................................................................................................................................................