News, reactions and information on what's happening in cycling in Scotland.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Glencoe Epic

Recently it's not normal for me to describe any of my rides as 'epic', but today's I can safely scribe as one of those, 160km from Oban, round the coast, up Glen Coe and across Rannoch Moor, all in hideous weather. It's also not normal for me to decide to go out in the rain, but I'm on holiday and determined to forget any health problems I've been experiencing this year and get some decent rides in my legs to salvage something from this season, I can't think when I've had the motivation to do that kind of distance by myself before, other than on a foreign touring holiday when I've had to get to one place for a flight home.

Everything seemed to be going pretty well, feeling good in the light rain, but as I hit Glen Coe, I could see the cloud hanging around the top of the glan, tourists seemed quite happy not to venture too far up the hill, taking photo's from the lower car parks, but the top looked dark, cloudy and not particularly pleasant, but no point in turning back, there's plenty more bad weather behind me too. Having hit the cloud and stopped to pull on the goretex another time, as I set off the bike didn't feel too good, on I went and things seemed to be getting 'draggy', the wind was picking up over the drag to the highest point of Rannoch Moor, you could also see your breath and it was getting colder all the time and near the summit a gusty headwind, visibility down to about 200m, like in the werewolf film on the moor. You know when somethings not right and you think, "I've not got a puncture", you bounce the back wheel only to find that's what you have, well it was one of those days, a slow puncture, but a puncture none the less.
So, you have 2 options.
1) Replace the tube
2) Pump it up and hope for the best
I went for option 2, as anybody who's been across that bit of road knows, there's no shelter, so along with it absolutely chucking it down with rain and a freezing wind (+ the werewolves), I wasn't going to be faffing about with fixing a puncture if I could help it. Quick fill with air and on I went, did this another couple of times and eventually made it to the first settlement, Bridge of Orchy, the hotel was serving food and was filled with walkers, I was directed to what must have been the 'cyclists table', it has what looks like waterproof seats, they seemed used to this, so went for the lentil soup and what I assumed would be the biggest dish, fish n chips, plus the obligatory two coffees. All the walkers looked dry, don't think it was nice enough weather for them, but they were dressed in the full clean & dry kit, pretending they were willing to brave the elements. A pair of old motorcycling mates came in, sounded like they'd ridden up from Yorkshire in the last couple of days, they both had bikes (loud ee by gum type conversation) and still had to ride up to Fort William, both sank 2 pints quickly and said "that were better than last one", made me slightly frightened to think how many pubs they'd stopped at, but no accidents on the news tonight, so they must have got there in one piece. Fixed puncture properly after I'd eaten, then off I went.

Set the virtual partner on the Garmin at 30kmh, he beat me back to Oban by 2 minutes, I cracked on the final climb, so not a bad days training on a nasty day, a shorter hilly ride tomorrow afternoon I think, needed an epic today, just to prove I could still do it.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Cancellara dominates in Prologue

Big Fabian does it again, blitzes everybody and has bike scanned by the UCI for a motor!!

1 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team Saxo Bank 0:10:00  
2 Tony Martin (Ger) Team HTC - Columbia 0:00:10  
3 David Millar (GBr) Garmin - Transitions 0:00:20  
4 Lance Armstrong (USA) Team Radioshack 0:00:22  
5 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Sky Professional Cycling Team 0:00:23  
6 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana 0:00:27  
7 Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin - Transitions 0:00:28  
8 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Team Radioshack    
9 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Professional Cycling Team 0:00:32  
10 Linus Gerdemann (Ger) Team Milram 0:00:35

Quite interesting results, especially Wiggins, he gambled on an early start to avoid the rain, but hit the worst of the weather, ITV4's coverage of his ride showed him taking the corners incredibly slowly, he'll be a bit dissapointed with 77th @56 seconds. His interview didn't show him to be too upset, so there is another possibility, he's lost weight since the Giro where he won the prologue, could he have furthered his transformation from pursuiter to mountain goat and this is the result, a reduced ability on shorter TT's, we'll find out soon enough.

Pleased to see Geraint Thomas up there too, I'd placed a £2 bet on him and was set to get £130 back if he placed in the top 3, all going well until Millar & Lance finished.

Tyler Farrar looks to be flying with a top 10, so should be interesting in the sprints this year with a below par Cav probably unable to dominate.

Looking forward to the first week, seems like bad weather, crosswinds, cobbles, no boring stages this year, there could be a few high profile victims fightingh to keep themselves within touch of the yellow jersey.

The Tour starts today.

Another Tour, another revelation on the eve of it.

These are generally happening every year now, but the latest revelations from Floyd Landis, which appear in the Wall Street Journal are making lots of things slip into place about the Armstrong phenomenum and the high possibility that 7 Tour wins was all a giant fraud.
The article is linked here:
Landis alleged that bikes were sold off to fund the teams doping programme, in the article Trek do admit that some of the bikes went missing, apparently half the number they supplied to the team. These were seen for sale on the internet, during the early part of 2004 Landis was seen riding an old Trek bike while Lance was on his new Trek Madone. So I expect there are hundreds of Armstrong fans who have a team bike at home, unwilling to face the fact that they may have been part of the funding process for their hero's doping programme.

Whatever the outcome, Armstrong is damaged, but he's the biggest cash cow the sport's ever seen, the authorities and race organisers seem unwilling to remove him from the event, they have TV viewing figures and sponsorship deals to worry about. Teams and riders have been removed in the past for being under investigation, a policy which the Tour organisers ASO seemed to be employing the last few years, there is enough evidence in this case for the US to have started a federal investigation into the allegations from Landis, so I expect the cash cow can't be removed, that's bad for business.

We're about to witness one of the most incredible Tours in history, Radio Shack (Armstrong's team) are going to under a huge amount of scrutiny, they won't be able to stop the bus on a mountain road and get a blood transfusion. So what's going to happen, will he flounder in the last week without his normal boost, will we get an unexpected Tour champion if the survielance is hightened and the 'real' grand tour riders come to the top.

So my predictions are that we'll see some unusual names in the top ten, riders will have bad days again, like they used to back in the day, I also expect Armstrong not to finish for some reason, at this point I don't know what the reason will be, but expect him to come out all guns blazing. He may be a sporting fake and a generally unpleasant human being, but he's a fighter and this is going to be one spicy Tour.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Brilliant Bialetti

I think I'm slowly becoming a bit of a coffee snob, I need a cup of the stuff to get myself going in the morning and out on the fixed gear to work, I won't have instant coffee at home anymore, it's banned as far as I'm concerned. But I have to admit that during the day at work I do sometimes pluck up the courage, go to the skanky kitchen and use some of the plastic nescafe stuff, it's honkin' stuff after you've sampled a Bialetti brewed wonder cup before you left in the morning.

I was introduced to the wonders of the Bialetti by team-mate Tom, it's a simple concept, but a classic piece of design and even though my partner hates coffee (she's a tea lover) there are no complaints about it sitting in full view with pride in the kitchen.

For those still to experience a Bialetti, let me explain, you may have used a cafetierre in the past, this works very differently to one of these, resulting in a much better (and stronger) cup of the black stuff. The top part unscrews from the main body, inside is a metal perforated filter, this lifts out and the lower base is filled with water, just up the level below where the base of the filter fits (you'll get this bang on every time after a few go's). Then place the filter in, you fill this with ground coffee, then screw the top back on (tight, or it might bubble through the seal). Stick it on the hob at a low heat and a few minutes later you hear it bubbling through and the coffee's ready.
This method means the water passes through the coffee as vapour, with other methods hot water passes through the coffee, the Bialetti method is superior and results a superb coffee.

Problems, yes, when I bought it it wouldn't fit on the hob, as you can see in the photo, I got hold of a stainless steel support I place over the gas hob to stop it falling through, pick one up for 2 or 3 quid in any kitchen shop, Debenhams etc. The sizing is potentially troublesome too, the small one is called a "3 cup", this relates to small coffee cups, if you want a mugfull this one will fill about halfway. I've just got an additional "6 cup" Bialetti which fills a mug, but will blow your head off, this stuff is a bit more 'loaded' than the coffee you may be used to, hence the emphasis on the different method.

The Bialetti really is an essential part of any cyclists life, this is the stuff that helps you out on a cold wet morning, it's even helped me and I am, by definition, a dedicated safty. Get yourself one, John Lewis, Debenhams, House of Fraser & Habitat all stock them.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Scottish Road Race Championships 2010

A unique viewpoint for this event, from one of the lead cars. in the race convoy, so perhaps saw things a bit differently to those at the side of the road, plus missed absolutely everything that was happening away from the very front of the event, should have all that info covered soon with their usual high quality and informative overview, saw them interviewing the winners and out on the road taking photos along the way.

Lap 1, couldn't get the radio working even after it had been fine on the check, so missed a load of info about what was happening, but gather a load of riders were getting shelled and one unfortunate puncture for one rider only 2 miles in, unlucky Mr Holmes, I know you're going well. The pressure appeared to be on as we saw a group form towards the end of the lap, about 7 or 8 riders containing at least 3 Endura's and some other of Scotlands top road riders, Rob Wilkins (Striling BC) as expected, in form Euan Pope (Glasgow Couriers), plus a Glasgow Wheelers rider I think (please comment and I can update the full contingent).

Radio now working after dismantling and reconnecting. These riders pulled a minute gap immediately, holding that for a couple of laps, time checks were coming in 56 seconds, 1:10, then back to a minute, the guys in the break looked like they were pushing it, so there must have been a load of lung bustung going on on the pointy end of the bunch, heard later it was Glasgow Wheelers, so the rider in the break may not have been from them.

On lap 3 up the A77, there was a time check at 45seconds, on the long straights the bunch could be seen, so something was going to snap, saw a flurry of attacks go and the lead group split into 3, the front two small groups formed together and the others appeared to slip back, the larger numbers of black jerseys in the group let us know this may be getting the hammer put down, it did. Radio crackled one rider was leaving the bunch too and going across, appeared to be Creber, but will also confirm that later. Through the climb up the feed zone and waiting for the riders, 2 appeared, matching black kit and white booties, 2 Endura boys, can't be good news for the others, tactics coming into play. Group behind containing Wilkins, seemingly driven by him (what else could he do, either sit up or get jumped by lone Endura rider sitting on, as he would, can't chase the team-mates).

4th lap and we hear that chase group has been attacked by McCallum, going across to 2 leaders, now 3 Endura off the front, we see him in the distance now, but he's not making fast inroads to the leaders, they don't know. Some roadside info passed up and Oliphant and Hand see Jamesey coming across, speed drops, rider joing the front and now 3 medalists, all from same team off the front, impressive stuff.

Timechecks coming in, the leads flying up now, pegged around the 4 minute mark, no way anybody will catch them now on the last lap. Wasn't sure what would happen, but looks like they all wanted the win and some attacks and suddenly Evan is just clear with about 3km to go, behind McCallum and Hand are weaving across the road, neither wanting to make the effort to catch Evan it seems, Evan crosses the line, followed closely by Jamesey and Gary Hand. Further down the road, last years winner Creber looks to have pushed right through some groups and slips in for 4th place, Endura 1,2,3 & 4.

After some good riding from the Glasgow Wheelers, they get Robbie Hassan in 5th, a really strong ride from the guy with a big future, he looked dejected though, which in some way is encouraging, means he wanted more.

No idea what happened back down the road, excellent race again from the VC Astar, excellent circuit and a sunny day, what more could you ask for, we knew roughly what was going to happen before the event, hopefully this is raising the level in Scotland, it really is starting to look that way, the Endura's had to fight to get themselves in that position.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Carbon Cages

Ok, lets get this out of the way, I used to have one, a long time ago, lost a bottle first ride, attached some rubber bits to the inside, couldn't get a bottle easily in, but it now weighed the same as an aluminium one.

So what's the point in carbon cages?

Riders seem to think they need a carbon cage, lets look at the facts, a 500ml bottle of water weighs 500g (just over 1lb if you're an old fella, in fact if you still use feet, inches and lb's you've probably never heard of carbon fibre, you're fine with your steel bottle cages). A carbon cage weighs something in the region of 30g, an aluminium one about 50g, but an aluminium cage has one huge advantage, it can be made to fit your bottle, it bends to shape and has some elasticity to allow it to grip the bottle. Aluminium bottles, £5, carbon bottles £25 upwards, for a product not fit for purpose.

In every race I've done this year I've noticed riders losing bottles on the first bit of bumpy tarmac, something you're certain to hit in a Scottish race. The ones who lose their bottle are all carbon cage posers, sometimes the bling boys have to take a good look at themselves and face the fact that for some things carbon isn't the best material, this is the case for bottle cages, they're a danger to others too, bottles flying about the bunch isn't particularly nice.

So the smart riders will ditch their cages, sell them to your nearest unsuspecting gringo or sportive rider, who cares more about bling than fuctionality. Carbon cages are not something for anybody looking for performance, you won't go well if you're not hydrated, plus you look a bit silly losing a bottle because you're a poser, you'd be as well swapping your helmet for a tiara, like a carbon cage, a tiara won't do the job and is overly expensive.

Friday, 30 April 2010

Robert Hassan

The Glasgow Wheelers are currently going though a bit of a transformation, having been a 'normal' club in Scottish domestic racing for the past few years,this year they've come into a bit of funding after Glasgow City Council are understandably pushing sport in the build up to the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.They've used their resources wisely and look to be developing a young team, with some excellent role models including Dave Smith, Rab Wardell & Jason Roberts to guide the youngsters in the right direction, talent in nothing without guidance, they've had young talent for a couple of years now, but it's now showing it's true ability.
I was working at the Tour Doonhame Premier Calendar (still referred to as 'The Girvan' by many), I saw first hand how well prepared and how disciplined some of the squads were at this race. Robbie Hassan appeared comfortable at 18 years old in this kind of class competition. The snapshot below shows just where he slots into the UK cycling scene.

25 Dan Fleeman Team Raleigh E st
26 Kristian House Rapha- Condor- Sharp E at 0:36
27 Robert Hassan Glasgow Wheelers Esp 2 at 0:42
28 Yanto Barker Pendragon - Le Col E at 0:53
29 Tom Barras Team Raleigh E at 1:06

Let me expain:
Fleeman was on Cervelo last year, unfortunately injury stopped him renewing his contract, now he's helping develop Raleigh into an ambitious team with big aspirations in the future ( may have a bit of nostalgia here as I rode for them once in the distant past). Kristian House is the current British Road Race Champion, racing for Rapha, a well respected rider who's won the FBD Milk Ras, ahead of Danny Pate, now Garmin. Yanto Barker is a former British Junior Champ, he was on the BC 'plan', but opted to move to France to pursue his career, where he raced for MBK, but I think most would agree he has the talent but chose not to fully pursue a continental pro career, he's now back running his own Welsh team and has his own line of clothing. Tom Barras, is Sid Barras son, google him!

So Robbie, is right there in the mix, he also beat the Endura pro's in last weeks Super6, at 18 he knows how to ride well in GC, but more importantly, he's got the confidence in his own abilities to take on whoever he wants and win, this is what sets Hassan apart from the rest, his ability whether concious or not to 'have a go'. He also has the knowledge that comes with being part of a cycling family, this shouldn't be under-estimated.

I wish him all the best and hope the Wheelers keep doing what they're doing when he moves on, as he inevitably will, they need to treat this as flattery in their setup, coz if they're successfull at what they're trying to achieve, people will move on, that in my opinion is something you can only look on as a success.