What’s the price of loyalty? 500 Swiss Francs and a shot at the maillot jaune

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Watching it on the telly is almost as good as being there.  Almost.  George Bennett ripping-it up the Tourmalet

The sports pages back home last week were full of the ‘almost but not quite’ stories that make sports watching great. First there was the cricket, then the kiwi netball team kept the theme by losing thrilling semi-final game at the Netball World Cup.  (They dished out some impressive redemption by winning the thing overall, so there’s that.)   But the one that I’ve been keeping my eye on has of course been George Bennett’s  brush with awesomeness at the Tour.  George almost had a hand on the coveted yellow jersey, but stage 10 was a stark reminder of what the “professional” in “professional cycling” is all about. Continue reading

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Even when you catch it on an off-day, the Tour de France is still pretty awesome.

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Me, George Bennett and Tom Scully at the start of Stage 4 in Reims

The Tour really is (men’s) cycling at its most ridiculous and wonderful best.  It’s a rolling circus that has no parallel in any sport: if it takes a village to raise a child, it for sure takes a village to run the Tour.  The last couple of years we’ve been able to play the #EmbassyOfCycling card, and get some great backstage access to the Tour to give our kiwi riders some support and a social media shout-out.  This year though the security has been beefed up, and we couldn’t quite get across the barriers.  But we still managed to catch up with the New Zealanders riding the Tour and give them a hearty “kia kaha!” on behalf of our fellow kiwis. Continue reading

How cool is BMX? Very. Get into it.

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Cycling is a wonderful thing, and I’m super happy that I’ve been able to experience quite a bit of it at the highest level. Obviously, by “experience” I mean “watch”, but this weekend I managed to fill in a glaring gap in the my cycling-experience bucket list by heading to the outskirts of Pairs to support a group of kiwi riders in the latest round of the UCI BMX Supercross World Cup.  BMX is on the fringes of my cycling universe, but I’ve gotta say, based on my experience over the weekend, I’ll be paying a lot more attention. It’s a wonderful, intense, spectacular, gateway-drug of cycling and we should all be more into it. Continue reading

Don’t be afraid to take to your carbon fibre road bike with a crowbar and a mallet.*

*Just do it really, really gently

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Those hardy few of you that keep track of my blog should know by now that it’s more about cycling in general, and less about me cycling in particular. One of the things I enjoy about that is the realisation that things that keep me from riding are actually pretty rewarding. Like, sometimes I take quite a bit of pleasure from almost-but-not-quite completely f—ing something up and only just managing to snatch victory from the jaws of expensive and embarrassing bike-maintenance defeat. Continue reading

If 2018 was the year of dockless bikeshare, 2019 is the year of e-scooters. They’re everywhere.

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This time last year the streets of Paris were littered with half-arsed dockless bike share bikes – we were literally tripping over them. But as time, vandalism, and the growing reality that the bikes were actually pretty crappy ran their course, the various schemes faded away to the point where you’d be luck to find even a MoBike out in the wild these days.  Times sure have changed.  This year, dockless e-scooters have sprouted like so much tinea around the feet of Paris monuments, and I suspect most Parisians will find them just as irritating and difficult to get rid of. Continue reading

Paris-Roubaix 2019: this time I am going to sugar coat it. Because I watched it with a bunch of cycling-mad Belgians and it was brilliant.

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There nothing like a bunch of cycling-mad Belgians to give you a deeper appreciation of just how fantastic bike racing is. Those guys really know their craft, and aren’t afraid to show it.  There’s nothing like going off the deep end with full immersion cycling experiences. So when the chance to watch the 2019 Paris-Roubaix with a group of friendly and well-connected Belgian (and kiwi) bike fans, of course I jumped right in. Continue reading

In cycling, as in life, sometimes crashes happen. Fortunately, for most of us, just not very often.

Chris Auld Rain crash

This photo by Chris Auld has nothing at all to do with this blog post but it is hands-down my favourite bike crash photo of all time so I like to use it as often as I can.

There’s a saying in pro cycling that if you’re not crashing, you’re either about to crash, or recovering from a crash. Now, I don’t know if that’s true, but based on what you see from the Tour de France it sure sounds about right. There are some spectacular crashes in pro cycling, and they happen quite often. Fortunately, back over here in the Real World, the cycling that most of us do is actually pretty safe, and the huge majority of crashes are uneventful. But sometimes, yeah, you crash. Continue reading

The cobbled classics are to the Tour as Easter is to Christmas

Tour of Flanders 2017: Boonen on the Muur


Local hero Tom Boonen powering up the Kapelmuur, Tour of Flanders 2017.  From VeloNews, here.

The Tour de France is a lot like Christmas. It comes around every year (in summer, which only makes sense if, like me, you’re from the Southern Hemisphere), and is a celebration of great things that comes with tinsel and gifts in bright wrapping. Anyone can get into it without necessarily having to ascribe to its deeper meaning.  But the spring-time cobbled classics are a different kettle of fish.  Their appeal is less obvious to the non-believer.  But if you’re a devotee,  their focus on passion, sacrifice and redemption defines your fundamental faith.  In that, they’re a lot like Easter. Continue reading

From the front seat of a team car, pro cycling looks like a tough gig

 

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This last weekend I ticked another item off my bucket list, and got to spend a day in the co-pilot seat of the team car of a pro team at a UCI World Tour stage race.  I’m not going to lie – it was brilliant, and I’m deeply grateful to Craig Geater, Dave McPartland, and the rest of the team at Greenedge Cycling for giving me a peek backstage at the craziness of cycling’s men’s premier league. From where I was sitting it was a great afternoon. But for the riders, crosswinds and crashes meant for a tough day in the office; pro-cycling might be cool, but crikey it can be a hard way to make a living. Continue reading

Cycling is overdue a #MeToo shakeup

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Tradition is one of the things that makes cycling great.  But it can mean that cycling gets stuck in the past with a dinosaur mentality that is out of whack with the rest of the world.  The recent fallout over Iljo Keisse’s behaviour at the Vuelta a San Juan in Argentina – and the offensively tone-deaf response of his Belgian team – is another reminder that things need to change.  Cycling is well overdue a #MeToo shakeup. Continue reading

The survivors will escape the zombie apocalypse by bike

For a city of light and fraternité Paris sure does like a good protest. Since before Christmas we have been subjected to the ebb and flow of weekly protests by the Gilets Jaunes, a broad social protest movement demonstrating against the policies of President Emanuel Macon and his En Marche! government. I’m not going to give you a run down on the whys and wherefores of what the Gilets Jaunes are protesting about, partly because I am a bit lazy, partly becaise I don’t really know what I am talking about, and also because the focus of the protests has changed as they’ve gone on. But mostly because this is a bike blog, and an in-depth analysis of French domestic politics would be wildly out of character. Continue reading

It’s summer back home and we’re being tortured by Facebook

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Home. Wish we were there.

Earth has seasons.  Makes life interesting in more ways than one, and means that while it’s cold and cruddy here in Paris, it’s the height of summer back home.  Home is experiencing some of its warmest temperatures ever, which is both bad (climate change) and good (wharf jumping! Woohoo!).  While the bad aspect is bad for everyone, the aspect that is good for people at home is just a little bit bad for us, because all our friends are posting fantastic pictures of summer on Facebook, and we’re feeling a little bit homesick and a lot jealous.

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“They could do an old man’s race; make it nice and gentle, and play some nice music”

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My kind of bike racing.  Not sure where this is originally from, but I got if from here.

2019 is, I have to admit, off to a slow start. We’re well into the back-end of January, and I’ve only been out on my bike a couple of times. I’m excusing that by saying its January so it’s cold, has been raining a lot, and I’ve been in other countries half the time. But really, those are pretty lame excuses. Fortunately, my family are well used to my lameness, and delight in giving me a hard time about it.  Facebook reminded me of a conversation with my daughter, from six years ago when she was eight: “Oh daddy, you’ll never be a bike racer.  No wait! They could do an old man’s race; make it nice and gentle, and play some nice music!” That actually sounds appealing… Continue reading

2019 is off to a cracking start! I’ve been vindicated!

So, I’d thought about doing a ‘year in review’ post, or a ‘welcome to 2019’ one, but the New Year more-or-less snuck up on me and here we are five whole days into 2019 and this is my first post since the start of December.  No matter; my early New Year gift was a delightful news story that has given me a great feeling of “see! I told you so!”.  Now I’m the first to acknowledge that smug self-satisfaction is the loneliest kind of satisfaction, particularly when it comes off the back of someone else’s work.  But this time (a) I don’t care, and so (b) I’m going to tell you all about it anyway. Continue reading