Saturday, 28 February 2009


Today is the first day of the professional road cycling season. Until now all we've had is training races. The Tours Down Under, Palma-Mallorca, Qatar and California etc. None of these races have any real meaning at all in the grand scheme of things, they're basically just distractions for us and training for the teams until the season proper starts: and that is today. Today is Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (formerly known as Het Volk) and tomorrow is Kuurne Brussels Kuurne.
This weekend is the first chance we have to see the pro's race for real, the first weekend of the classics, the openining races over the hallowed cobbles and bergs, and the first indicators of serious form for the biggest 2 races of the years - Ronde Van Vlaanderen & Paris Roubaix. Nothing else comes near these races, not even the Grand Tours, so why is there NOTHING on Eursport? All through the tours of Qatar and California David Harmon repeatedly assured us that Eurosport would have greater, improved coverage of the classics and what have we got? NOTHING. Not a whisper, nada, F*** all, in fact the square root of f*** all.
I hold little hope of these clowns even showing Roubaix or Flanders, after all they failed totally and miserably last year. For ewxample we got only the last 10k of Roubaix. So we saw no cobbled sections apart from Avenue George Croupeland (at the entry to the velodrome). The race had been long decided (100km previously was the first selection with another sorting our at Carrefour Les Arbres). Flanders was no better, we came home from seeing the race in Belgium on the Monday to find a recording of (I think) Biathlon and sledging.
This is totally unacceptable, not just the failure to show the races, but the lying to us, the viewers that they say they will do. I think a petition to number 10 is in order. Either that or give up sky altogether and take out a subscription to with the savings. What a waste of time and money.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Just because you can

We’re on the way home from a weekend in Leeds for our friend’s 25th wedding anniversary party and I’ve decided to try this blogging from a train lark. We nearly didn’t get there at all as it happened as someone (who? Me?) locked themselves out of the house in the morning. Oh yes, not only out of the house, but out of the garage (where the tools are) and the car. By the time we’d enlisted the help of a friend to break in without doing too much damage which is actually much harder than you’d think poochie was getting severely stressed. He was definitely not best pleased at being dumped in kennels. Maybe he’ll forgive us when we spring him tomorrow.
Anyway, to cut a long story short we eventually got up to Leeds for the party and met up with a couple of people from Southampton days who I’d not seen for years. Mike’s band played and as I’d been asked to sit in, I did just that. I’ve not played the old box much lately and this morning my fingers are throbbing but I must make an effort to get back into it.
I like train travel, especially inter-city, the 2½ hours from London to Leeds just flies by and with this new fangled inter webby thing on the train too it makes for a very nice way of passing the time. On the way up yesterday I bought a c.d. from the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC in America, just because I could. How cool is that?.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

The Rack

I’ve decided enough is enough. We’ve had 2 weeks of snow and ice, rain, floods and tempest. It feels like we only need a touch of Pestilence or a dose of Bubonic Plague to complete the set. After a good start, this winter has delivered the curse of the optimist in big style and decreed that riding out on the road is the most reliable way to end a season before it’s even started.

Last weekend our club’s reliability ride (sorry “Sportive”) was cancelled because of icy back roads and apart from ‘cross and a bit of off road riding there’s not been much chance to get out at all lately. So I’ve decided something must be done and resigned myself to sessions on the rack in a desperate bid to get just a little zip into the legs and a lot of fat off the belly before racing starts.

The question is, what to put on the mp3 to relieve the intense boredom? In previous years I’ve made up a mix of clubland “bangin toons” but they’ve started to get stale so a search for replacements has been going on.

I’ve tried Manu Chao but the beat’s wrong, I’ve had a go at Mr. Scruff, but that’s real mood music. Blowzabella worked for a while, but you really need to concentrate on that and the turbo is not a good place to concentrate. No, I need something to erase all conscious thought…especially thoughts of getting off early because the legs hurt and I’m out of breath.

Hmm…Nick Cave? Too Dark. Phillip Glass?....interesting, but ultimately too much thought involved. I’ve even tried Tangerine Dream but I need something to pedal to at a steady 100 – 120 bps. Klaus Schultz might fit the bill perhaps?

For the moment I’ve settled on Royksop’s The Understanding. Melody A.M. is too variable in both tone and tempo, but The Understanding has just the right pace plus the bass is compressed almost to flatness and there’s enough reverb on the top to make it a good listen. Not Spector-ish but with space. There’s a couple of tracks with an irritating amount of hi hat, but apart from that it’s now just a question of how long it is before I get tired of it.

Any suggestions or alternatives anyone?

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Gig of the year

I should have mentioned this earlier, but a high bar has been set for Gig of Year 2009, even before January is out. the other evening we went to "Folk America - Hollerers, Stompers & Old Time Ramblers" at the Barbican. Hosted by the inimitable Seasick Steve, it featured Alison Williams & Chance McCoy, The Wiyos, Cedric Watson and Bijou Creole, the fantastic Diana Jones and someone who's well on the way to being an all time fave - C.W.Stoneking.

Described by Seasick as totally stuck in the 1930's his mixture of old time jazz, deep south blues and street "Hokum" held us spellbound. With a truly authentic vocal sound, you'd be forgiven for thinking he was one of the original bluesmen, but no. In his 30's Stoneking hails from Australia - unbelievable.

A quick mention for some of the other artists - The Wiyos mix of Vaudeville, swing and old time hill billy had the whole audience stunned with their brilliance. Diana Jones is becoming well known in the UK, having (I think) recently supported Richard Thompson and had a feature spot on the Bob Harris show. Alison williams started out playing in punk bands in the 90's but soon crossed over to old timey country. She plays a mean clawhammer banjo and her band is pretty hot too. Guitarist chance McCoy put his taps on and gave a super demonstration of of Appalachian clog, which took me right back to my time with Loose Screws, which some of you may remember.

We came out of the Barbican at gone 11, very late for Barbican gigs, but with our ears ringing and a very long list of "must have" CDs. It's going to take a VERY special artist to top that one.

The Greatest?

Today on Eurosport I heard Lance Armstrong described (in all seriousness) as the greatest cyclist ever!!!! I don’t think I have ever heard such a stupid and obviously wrong statement. EVER.

Let’s be honest here, No one can come close to Eddy Merckx. OK he only won the tour 5 times but he did win the Giro 5 times, the Vuelta, the tour de Suisse, Paris Nice (3 times), every single classic at least once, including Milan – San Remo 7 times 1966,67,69, 71,72,75 and 1976, semi classics including Gent Wevelgem, Het Volk, etc. etc. 17 six day races, the World Championship road race three times and the Super Prestige Trophy, not to mention the hour record and God knows how many other tour jerseys.

Second on my list has to be Fausto Coppi. His palmares includes 5 tours, 5 Giros, Milan – San Remo 4 times, Paris Roubaix, 5 Tours of Lombardy together with the World Championship road race and the inevitable hour record among many others. We should also remember that he spent a significant part of the 2nd World War as a POW in the UK, so that knocks out a good 4 of his prime years.

Third: well I guess it has to be Maitre Jacques: 5 TDF (yawn) 2 Giros d’Italia, The GP de Nations 7 times – not bad for a tester! The Super Pretige Pernod (World Cup equivalent, more or less) 4 times, Paris – Nice 5 times, the World Championship road race and as is becoming usual, the hour record. Anquetil, though is best remembered for his incredible performance in riding and winning the Dauphine libere stage race and the now regrettably defunct Bordeaux Paris with less than 12 hours gap.

Fourth, Bernard Hinault? – The usual. 5 tours, 2 Vueltas, 3 Giros, Paris – Roubaix, Liege – Bastogne – Liege twice, not forgetting the 1980 issue, run of in an absolute blizzard. Hinault was apparently so cold at the finish he had to be taken of his bike and had to wait until his bath water was cool before warming up. Only weeks later could he feel his middle fingers again! Now that’s a hard man.

Fifth, Gino Bartali

Sixth, Felice Gimondi

Seventh, Big Mig? Van Steenbergen?

Eigth. Hmm… Louison Bobet or Henri Pellisier? Or how about Maurice Garin (winner of the first tour, Paris Roubaix etc.) or perhaps one of my favourites Octave “Curly” Lapize.

Now. If, like me you value the classics (monuments) over the Grand Tours, (and loads of big name riders including Maggie B and Pretty Boy George have said that one Roubaix takes as much out of a rider as a 3 week tour) we come to some of the REAL hard men of the sport... Enter my all time hero Sean Kelly (who I finally met last year – fantastic bloke, really down to earth) Rik Van Looy and Mr. Roubaix himself – Roger De Vlaemink, Francesco Moser, etc etc.

So where does that leave Armstrong? 7 tours,(a record for TDF wins, but not a record for overall grand tour wins – Merckx has 11, Coppi 10, Hinault's got 8 and Anquetil 7)…a single worlds, 1 tour of Luxembourg, 1 of Switzerland, 1 minor pro tour race (San Sebastian) and that’s about it. Certainly that’s the palmares of a champion, a top rider of his generation, but the “greatest ever”?

Please don’t insult my intelligence.

Enough said.