Friday, August 13, 2010

Cipollini Does It Again.

It's  great to get out for some sneaky bike practice before work. I love turning up at the bureau knowing that I have already done something for myself before I got there. I look around the office at my non cycling co-workers all bleary eyed, still waking up and sometimes still eating breakfast. At times I pity them because they will never know the simple joy you and I experience when we ride our bikes. I’m sure it’s a feeling many cyclists share with me. Of course the flip side to all these endorphins and positive energy is that I fall in a heap soon after lunch and have to drag myself like a stubborn mule through the remainder of the day.

If you have been reading my blog you will know that I am a huge fan of seeing celebrity cyclists in the media for reasons other than racing results. I thought I would share something which arrived in my inbox today just as I was reaching my post lunch slump.

Many of you would know that former professional cyclist, master of style and lovable rogue Mario Cipollini has entered the world of bicycle manufacturing.

With the Italian ISD professional team already using his bikes Cipollini has now released a short promotional film in an effort to boost sales of his bikes and related paraphernalia. Of course we all know and admire Cipo for his reputation as a gadabout town and for his general skylarking behaviour. In this film we get to see Mario's serious side as he promotes his various products by basically riding around looking fabulously fit and meticulously groomed as always.

In the opening scene we find Mario comfortably relaxing on the terrace of his Tuscan villa and catching up on the sports news of the day while wearing a three piece suit. Everything seems in its place until the countryside beckons like the mythological sirens of old and Mario is lured away from his sophisticated domesticity and into his Lycra. A situation I'm sure we can all relate to.

See how he pensively surveys the Tuscan landscape before he embarks for his ride, much like an artiste may look upon an unfinished painting. I wonder what artistry he’s going to unleash on the windswept and emotively filmed countryside.

After changing into his cycle ware we join Mario as he embarks on a journey filmed to show off the qualities of his product. After some fast cornering and promenading (not to be confused with pomade, of which there seems to be lashings of) he then arrives in a delightful piazza for some more contemplative gazing.

You may notice that the camera angle being used seems to have us viewing our hero from below thus giving the illusion of  him towering above us with all his might and glory, I wish my rides were as cinematic as Mario's.

Of course the bikes are made in Italy and to prove it in this scene we see an Italian looking and fashionably unkempt tech specialists pondering a newly minted frame.

Surprisingly Cipollini's Italian made bicycle seems to be equipped with components of non Italian origin, which I always thought was frowned upon by the Euro style establishment, evidently Mario can do as he pleases as he set many of the standards held so dearly by the aspiring Euro pro wannabees (I'm counting myself as part of that group) and so therefore has the right to trifle with the very tenets of tolerable bicycle related conduct… Even riding topless.

Somehow the lovable rogue gets away with it all and I find myself wanting to own one of these machines, maybe he will send one over for me to review. If you would like to view the film for yourself you can find it here.

To many people Cipollini is the epitome of manliness on two wheels, our sport needs men like him to help affirm its image as a tough masculine sport worthy of interest. For those of you not convinced of this I would like you to compare this picture of Mario in his square jawed, race winning prime.
To this photo of current Italian road champion and rather effeminate looking Giovanni Visconti who seems to be up to date with the latest depilatory techniques.

 Who do you think would capture more public attention? The charming cad or saucy knave?

Monday, August 9, 2010

Fast Times, New Roads

Modern life can get pretty hectic. As a youngster I listened with fascination as I was told that the advances in computer technology would give me innumerable hours of free time “when I grew up”. Sadly the promised life of leisure I was led to believe in never came to fruition and instead life just seemed to get busier and more complicated as I got older. Technology allows us to be instantly connected to whoever we choose in many more ways than we could once imagine. Does anybody remember what life was like without a mobile phone? All this connectivity can be useful but it has led to a need for instant gratification which can be a little annoying if you are the one being pursued. Recently my carefully crafted, quiet anonymity was foiled as I had been caught in technologies sticky web and was forced into attending some work related demands, when I happened upon this chap.

I snapped this photo over a week ago and it has been playing on my mind ever since. This guy is so connected and demanded upon that he has seen fit to drop his bike between parked cars and squat awkwardly in the filthy city gutter as he bows to another of life’s demands. What is he doing? Could he be running a quick colour coordination diagnostic on his computer to make sure his white deep V’s are still an acceptable match with his black frame? Could he be bidding for a frame in an online auction for his next build so we all get to see another piece of junk road frame turned into a fixie? Or perhaps buying some colourful tyres online? Maybe he's reading my blog! Any other suggestions readers? Whatever it may be I’m sure glad that my life isn’t as demanding as his.

Everybody just seems to fit more into life these days with "growth" and "increased productivity" being the buzzwords of our time. Well how much can we grow before we split our metaphoric pants? How much productivity can be squeezed out of a human being before they become an empty husk? Sometimes it feels like wherever I look somebody is demanding my attention, it may be work related or even social, quite often it’s “some company” vying for a slice of my interest trying to push their product in front of me. Stop reading right now and look around you. How much branding and advertising can you see? I’m tipping that unless you live in a cave then the answer is plenty.  Most of the time this sort of thing just washes over me, I treat it like current affairs programs on any commercial TV network and I pay no attention to it but every now and then it has the power to drag me down slightly. I know, I'm part of it, I advertise on my blog. When this happens there is only one thing to do. Put on my team kit covered with sponsors logos and go for a ride. I suppose this makes me part of the problem (again) but I console myself with the knowledge that I seriously doubt if any of my clubs sponsors have seen a return on their investment.


One of the nicest things about cycling is discovering new roads to train on. Sometimes this can really give your motivation a boost when the same old training routes are getting a little tiresome. Its great linking up a few newly discovered roads into a loop and showing a few select friends your secret ride. I normally begin with the words “I’m going to show you a loop that’s gonna blow your mind”. Just be sure they can keep it to themselves or you will end up seeing energy gel sachets strewn all over your previously undiscovered ride, as has happened to me recently.

Stop being too precious about your bike and start enjoying it more. Don’t be afraid of venturing down dirt roads, some of my favourite rides include some sections of dirt. Just make sure you bring enough spares (I carry 2 tubes and a patch kit) and I would also advise you bring some extra food just in case you get lost.  Recently I decided to venture down a dirt road which I had not ridden for at least five years, when I got there I discovered that joy of joys it had recently been sealed. I was so excited I took some pictures to share with you.

This recent discovery now provides me with another loop within a loop to keep me eager and my training partners mesmerized. Part of the reason I find exploring new roads so refreshing is because it takes me back to one of the reasons I started riding in the first place, adventure. Sometimes its good to forget about training for competition or bragging rights or personal fitness and get back to just enjoying the pleasure of riding.

The road in these pictures looks like it could be in the middle of nowhere when in fact its only in the outer suburbs of Melbourne.  Stop venturing down that same “road” every weekend (Melbourne cyclists will know which “road” I’m alluding too). I challenge you to open a map, do some research and put together a new training ride before this weekend.

You might see me out there.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Quiet Roads & Chemical Cocktails

Quiet country roads are everybody’s favourite place to train, if you are like me and live in the centre of a large city then you savour every moment you can spend some time on one. I’m sure many of you would remember a time when the only clue to alert you that another cyclist had been out training on your favourite back road would be a discarded banana peel by the roadside. How times have changed.

These days I’m alarmed at the amount of discarded energy gel sachets I keep seeing when out training. Since when did going for a ride require such technologically advanced nutrition? Those little foil packets seem to be everywhere these days, I have even seen them strewn about my local suburban cycle path. It makes me feel a little bit like this..

You may be interested to know that the crying native American in the commercial was actor Espera Oscar de Corti, who was in fact not a native American at all but the son of Sicilian immigrants, he was however known for his portrayals of native Americans in Hollywood films. His native Italian ancestry was not made public until the end of his life. Damn, TV lied to us again!

As cyclists we need to be extra careful to tread lightly wherever we go. Why?.. Because basically everybody pretty much hates us. I don't want to lapse into stating the obvious (its so boring) but littering really doesn’t do us any favours as a group, think of it as another excuse for “motorists” to bleat about how irresponsible cyclists are. Of course we all know that the amount of littering done by cyclists is insignificant when compared to the amount of drink cans, fast food wrappers and cigarette butts tossed away by everyone else. Oh and that lone shoe you keep seeing by the roadside? Its mine, I’ve been looking all over for it. If you have any sense of responsibility towards your fellow cyclists put that little packet back in your pocket and dispose of it thoughtfully.

“Motorists”, I love that term. It sounds so quaint, whenever I hear it I imagine one of those vintage cars being driven by a gentleman wearing an overcoat and airmen’s goggles. Or perhaps a villainous scoundrel and his henchman as can be seen in the rendering below.

I might also add that we need to be extra careful with our litter when racing, all it takes is an angry resident to complain about our roadside refuse and before you know it another permit for a racing circuit is revoked by the officialdom. Just like dangerous riding on the road or running red lights its always just a few bad eggs misbehaving. Of course the problem is we all get tarred with the same brush, so lets start helping ourselves by trying to do the right thing. End of tiresome rant.


Energy gels are great because they allow you to get a quick hit of fuel in a few seconds instead of fumbling around with wrappers and choking on inhaled pieces of food as you struggle with the speed of the peloton, I know, I've been there too. For this reason I totally recommend energy gels for racing, but for training? They are convenient yes but personally I think its overkill to use them while training when you are probably better off just eating real food.

In our modern world we are exposed to all sorts of nasties on a daily basis whether they are in the air we breathe, the water we drink or even what we wear or put on our skin. I don’t want to sound alarmist but chemicals are everywhere and we should be trying to minimise our exposure to them when we can. What does all of this have to do with energy gels? It’s all in the ingredients…

I have done some basic research into some of the ingredients listed on the back of a popular energy gel I just happened to have at home. Chemical cocktail anyone?

Potassium Chloride (KCI): Found naturally in the human body and vital for functions including the beating of your heart, used in food processing as an alternative to salt. Too much of the stuff can cause side effects such as irregular heartbeat, stomach pain and my favorite, weak or heavy legs (just what every cyclist wants). Of course its only used in small quantities in your energy gel but how much are you getting from other sources? You may also be interested to know that it is also used as fertiliser and is the same deadly substance used to administer lethal injection. Fun! Don’t be too afraid, almost any substance can be lethal in a high enough dose.

Potassium Sorbate (202): Commonly used in food processing to curb the production of yeasts and mould in cheese, yogurt, dried meats and sometimes wine. Not really considered to be too much of a problem unless you have an allergic reaction but in large quantities can cause nausea, diarrhoea and in an ironic twist, nutrient loss in food (just what every cyclist wants).

Sodium Benzoate (211): Naturally occurring in some fruits but chemically manufactured for use in food processing, used as an ingredient in many foods and soft drinks because it works very well at killing bacteria, yeast and fungi. Recent scientific research has shown that this stuff can actually damage DNA which may lead to neuro-degenerative diseases. I suppose its logical that if it can destroy yeast cells then in can at least damage human cells. Boffins have also discovered that the chemical reaction between sodium benzoate and ascorbic acid (300), also known as vitamin C, creates benzene which happens to be a known carcinogen. Nice! Some energy gels combine the two but you should also consider if you are taking vitamins as well as consuming sodium benzoate from other sources. Recently banned in the UK.

I never really looked at the ingredients of the food I consume too closely as I assumed that I have always eaten pretty well and avoided processed foods where I could,  but after having just a little look into the potential problems with food additives I will definitely be switching the brand of my energy gel and pay more attention to the labels of the food and drink I consume.

Oh and don't get me started on the phthalates which might be leaching out of your bidon as you have been reading this. As if going for a ride wasn't already dangerous enough.

Stay healthy everyone.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Cycling and TV...a winning combination

Well that's it. It's all over. No I'm not referring to popular Australian "reality TV" (is that an oxymoron?) show "Master Chef" which concluded over the weekend. For the blissfully unaware this is the program which was considered so important by its network and fans that the nationally televised federal election debate was postponed so as not to interfere with its time slot. Okay so I don't like it, so just don't watch it right? Wrong! What offends me the most is that this programs marketing campaign has reached saturation point with its logo found on every second item on supermarket shelves, from fresh produce to dry goods, you cant even walk down the street without seeing a billboard or poster promoting it and forget about opening a news paper. Enough is enough, the more I see it the more determined I become to not support it in any way. If you are from my part of the world then you know what I'm talking about and if you don't know then just consider yourselves lucky.

Of course the other must see television event which concluded over the weekend was the Tour de France. No real surprises with the end result although Schleck losing the race by the same amount of time he lost to Contador in the "chaingate" incident has me wishing both riders finished the three week tour on the same time, it certainly would have caused a stir.

With the tour over many of us in non cycling crazy countries will be lamenting the absence of daily race coverage and articles in the mainstream print media, yes its back to the good old Internet for your secret fix (don't you feel dirty?) of the sport which to most people only exists in the month of July. All the bike shops are now busily taking down the signage advertising their Tour de France sales, as if they were Christmas decorations in February. At least my sleep patterns can return to normal again.

All this talk about reality TV and cycling has me thinking about the time I spent in countries where cycling is a major sport and not looked upon as some sort of novelty news item, with your average person on the street in those countries having a pretty good knowledge of who is who and which race they won. In fact the racers are so popular that they are household names and sometimes end up on TV programmes themselves. I would like to share with you some examples of the quality programing featuring cyclists which can be found on TV in Europe.

Lets start in Italy where you may have seen Claudio Chiappucci on a programme called "L'Isola dei Famosi", which is like an Italian crossover of "Survivor" and the enthralling "I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here". Il Diabolo really nailed the physical challenges but sadly couldn't take out the competition of Italian C and D grade celebrities and finished a respectable 3rd.

Here he is drinking from a coconut .
Here he strains to hold up a what looks like a Gilligan's Island style barbell.

Most of you would probably know about Mario Cippolini's appearance on "Balando Con Le Stelle" or "Dancing With The Stars" a few years ago.

If you missed it go here to see a clip of Mario learning to dance. A dance aficionado and cycling friend of mine who saw the show told me that Mario didn't really display the same supplesse on the dance floor as he did on his bike.

1996 was a great year for Italian cheese and I'm not talking about grana padano. Marco Pantani thrilled us with his racing exploits throughout the 90’s but injury had him sidelined during 1996 and prevented him from competing in that years edition of the Giro d’ Italia, a Giro that was arguably designed for Marco to win. Now back in those days a Giro without Pantani was like a caprese salad without basil but the tifosi wouldnt need to go without because in that year that the late Marco Pantani sang the theme song which preceded the daily coverage of  Giro d Italia. Watch the clip below to see part of the legacy this great champion left behind, it will only make you miss him even more.

As far as cycling mad countries go you really cant go past the Belgians for taking the interest they have in their riders that little bit too far. So far in fact that a few of them actually have their own television shows.

After his retirement from a long and illustrious career in cycling Eddy Planckaert couldn’t stay out of the public eye and allowed a TV crew to document the daily life of his large and somewhat eccentric family (he had fallen on lean times and needed the money). The show ran for an incredible 12 years and was only recently shelved.

If cyclocross is more your thing then you might like to watch another Belgian hit TV series "Wellens en Wee". The program is basically a documentary which revolves around cross star Bart Wellens, his family and team. Go along for the ride and see for yourself what happens during the cross season in Belgium. You can see some of the funnier moments, team roughhousing and practical jokes here, just follow the prompt to the VT4 website where you can watch full episodes (if your Flemish is up to it). The program is a pretty good insight as to how popular the sport of cyclocross really is in Belgium with plenty of drunken fans partying in the mud as they watch the racing and some occasional goofing around from Bart and his team mates to lighten the mood.

Still on the cyclocross theme and once again in Belgium “Mr Paris Roubaix” Roger De Vlaeminck also entered the world of reality TV with his program “Allez Allez Zimbabwe”. The basic premise is that the “Gypsy” turns talent scout and coach for young Zimbabwean cyclists and brings them to Belgium for some hard Flemish lessons in suffering to help prepare them for the world championships, and suffer they do. After all their hard as nails coach used to train up to 400km in one day leading up to Paris Roubaix, an event he won an unequalled four times..
Unfortunately for Roger his young charges seem more interested in the local nightlife and chasing girls instead of training. Never the less the young Africans were very popular with the fans and the program was a hit. See how they perform here.

One of the cultural nuances of Belgium is that even though its a small country you can go for a 20 minute drive and end up in a region or city that speaks a different dialect or indeed a different language. If you watch any of the linked film clips above you may be interested to see that even though everyone is speaking Flemish the programs are still subtitled in you guessed it, Flemish.


Today I want mention a subject most cyclists don't want to hear about. Getting hit by a car, the mere mention of it puts my stomach in a knot but unfortunately its something some of us will have to deal with at some point. I'm not going to go on and on about riding safely and your rights on the road. I'm just going to give you one piece of advice. If you get hit and you go down, even if you're okay, stay down. Don't get up, as soon as you do anybody who saw it will assume you are okay and drive on. When that car fails to give way or turns in front of you it helps to have witnesses to back you up . In my experience people generally wont stop unless they have seen something pretty serious. So stay down for a while, get some names and don't give the driver at fault any chance of getting away with it.

I don't really want to end this post on such a serious subject so here's a mildly amusing Belgian TV ad featuring Roger De Vlaeminck, Eddy Planckaert and Freddy Maertens hamming it up for some advertising dollars.

Ride sensibly everyone.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Getting The Most Out Of Stage 17 & Your Shorts

Excited by the prospect of spectacular racing I managed to stay awake for last nights Tour De France coverage which featured the long awaited stage 17 finish atop the Col Du Tourmalet. I was amazed by the tenacity of Andy Schleck as he applied the pressure on the final climb which unhinged everyone but Contador. The savage accelerations I was hoping to see didn’t really eventuate, until Contador made his one and only attempt at breaking Schleck which only caused Schleck ride across and then stare down Contador as he drew level with him.

My heart was in my mouth as I expected one of the many lunatic spectators to cause a crash and ruin the stage at any moment, thankfully this didn’t happen and both riders made it to the finish with Contador not contesting the sprint to the line. I was a little disappointed as what I was hoping was going to be a lesson in vicious brutality turned out to be more like this. The only real slap dancing came after the finish when Contador got all touchy feely with Schlecks face.

If you missed the action or you want to relive the tension you can see highlights by heading over to the sponsored link to the right. For me the ride of the day was by Carlos Sastre who in an all out, last ditch bid for a podium finish in Paris tried to ride across to the breakaway, which eventually extended its lead to an eight minute gap. It was a planned move as Sastre’s team mate Konovalovas was already waiting off the front of the peloton to help him. In some kind of strange irony after the controversy of “chaingate” Contador himself tried to stop Sastre from going on the attack because the current holder of third place overall Samuel Sánchez had fallen and was being paced back to the peloton. Here’s part of what Sastre had to say about it post stage;

“I’ve fallen in this Tour, I fell in the Italian Giro d’Italia, I’ve had technical problems and no-one ever waited for me.”
“I think we’re turning cycling into a sport for spoilt brats and that is what happens in these kinds of circumstances.”

All I can say is thank you Carlos for a brave effort which animated the stage and had me shouting at the TV while urging you on instead of falling asleep like I normally would, I even spilled some beer.

Of course if it was the Giro then there would have been another three mountain stages with a mountain time trial thrown in for good measure for us to enjoy. I can’t help having the feeling that this Tour de France is now over and I may as well stop watching.

I’m constantly surprised at people’s lack of hygiene when it comes to their cycling kit. Having filthy kit is not befitting of a gentleman racer and in the case of your shorts can lead to more serious problems than people on your bunch ride talking about how much you stink. It’s true, I’ve heard them.

Let’s start with your salt encrusted helmet. Wash those crusty straps with some shampoo while you are in the shower, do the same to the inside of the helmet and if you want to give it the deluxe wash then remove the inner pads and run them through your washing machine. Say no to a reeking helmet!

Onto clothing now, for pity’s sake don’t try and get more than one wear out of your clothing, once you take it off it goes in the wash. That goes for your gloves too! If you want your cycling gear to last longer then don’t leave it in a sweaty pile for days and days before you wash it, the salt in your sweat will deteriorate the fabric especially your shorts. If you want your shorts to last for years then you can hand wash them, if that sounds like too much trouble then do what I do and put them in a mesh bra bag before they go in the wash, this prevents them coming into contact with zips, buttons or any other abrasive items/surfaces inside your washing machine. Now that your gear is nice and clean you need to dry it, once again if you want it to last then don’t put it in the clothes dryer and avoid hanging it in the sun when possible. I know it might sound pedantic but all these things really make a difference to the life of your clothing.

One more note on worn out clothing. Please don’t be one of those people I see riding around with the seat worn out of their shorts exposing their rear ends for all to see, where I’m from we call them porno shorts. Throw the bloody things away!

Ride safe and have a great weekend.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Gifts & Bonus Knowledge!

Everybody loves presents and I’m no exception, so last night when I arrived home after a tough day at the coal face and my sweetheart told me she had a gift for me I was thrilled. At first I thought it might be that Lancia Fulvia 1.6 HF I have been asking for (what better way to turn up to a race) but when she handed me a heavy square object wrapped in brown paper I knew it wasn’t one of those. My first guess was that it was an industrial sized block of Belgian chocolate, which would have pleased me greatly, but it was better than that, it was this…

I spent half the night poring over its pages with child like wonderment before eventually retiring to bed much later than I normally would.

Usually I need to go through a complex routine which eventually gets me out of bed and on the road but this morning, thanks to the thoughtful and inspiring gift I received the night before I awoke feeling somewhat motivated to go for a ride and leaped out of bed and into my matching kit, which I had laid out the night before to spare my beloved any shambolic rummaging around in the dark wee hours.

I’m pleased to report that the missing cyclists I have mentioned in previous posts have miraculously re appeared. With yesterdays rest day in the Tour de France I suppose these people managed a full nights sleep and were keen to ride again. It was nice to get a friendly good morning from another happy person getting their morning fix of “cyclocise”. It’s only a matter of time before somebody uses that word to market a spinning class or similar activity. Remember you saw it here first.

In any case it was good to see people were properly attired for the cold and slightly damp conditions, under dressing is a pet hate of mine.
I then came across a scene that no matter how many times I see it never fails to amaze me. I try and pick out a beautiful moment every day and today I thought this was mine.

It makes me happy every time I see this scene and it’s not because of schadenfreude. It just reminds me how lucky I am to have an alternative to sitting in that queue of traffic every working day. The thing that has me vexed is that many of these people who are sitting passively in their cars stuck in the unavoidable peak hour traffic may be the same people who throw things at, yell abuse at or threaten with violence you or I while we ride our bikes every day. What causes a person to be driven to abusive behaviour because a cyclist held them up for 10 seconds and yet the same person sits submissively in traffic for considerably longer without as much as a word? Shouldn’t this photo be full of hostile people leaping out of their cars and accosting the others around them? I just have to console myself with the fact that most people are pretty considerate and that’s something we should all acknowledge with a friendly wave when we see it, whether we are on our bikes or in our cars. I couldn’t dwell on the subject for too long because as I was about to continue on my way I was distracted by this.

New Knowledge Section!

One of the daunting things about cycling is that there is just so much to learn. Sometimes the most obvious things can make a world of difference to your pleasure, fitness and or comfort. You may have been riding for 30 years but I’ll wager you will still be learning. So from now on whenever I post I will be including a little piece of the knowledge I picked up along the way. Some of it you will already know but bare in mind that there are people out there who are just starting cycling and need some guidance. I don’t pretend to be an expert but I have been riding for a long time and like I said, you never stop learning.

You may have noticed that it doesn’t need to be raining to end up with wet feet, all you need is a wet road. Wearing socks over your shoes can help but there is nothing worse than that moment when the cold water finally seeps through your shoes and hits you toes, to avoid this the best thing to do is to get yourself some decent shoe covers, prices vary and generally as with most things you get what you pay for. Don’t be afraid to buy the expensive ones you wont believe how you went without them once you try them and a good pair will give you years of service. Of course they will only keep the pouring rain out for so long and eventually the water will seep through but at least shoe covers or booties as some people call them will delay this from happening. The added bonus to wearing shoe covers is that your shoes will also stay clean. People have been known to put plastic bags inside their shoes in an attempt to keep their feet dry, I wouldn’t recommend it, your feet end up soaked in sweat and eventually the water will seep in at your ankles anyway. Of course regardless of how prepared you are every now and then you will end up getting home with wet shoes, if you want them to dry before the next mornings ride pull out the inner soles and stuff your shoes with news paper this will soak up the moisture. Change the paper a few times over the evening (4 or 5 times) and hey presto, wearable shoes in the morning.

I’m off to buy some beer and snacks now for tonight’s Tourmalet stage of the Tour de France. I'm really looking forward to some good honest smackfest racing from the favourites as they try and break each other.

Here’s hoping its entertaining.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Magic Of Television & We Have A Villain

As is traditional for me I once again fell asleep during last nights coverage (Australian time) of the TDF. I know you are probably thinking its acceptable to fall asleep at midnight after a long day which began with an early morning ride followed by a full days work but there is more to it. My cycling induced narcolepsy goes much deeper, I even fall asleep in the middle of the day when watching recorded races. Its the same every time, with about 50km left to go I doze off only to wake up after the race has been won and the winner is standing on the podium. Sound familiar? I put it down to the background noise of the helicopter. That gentle droll must be at just the right pitch to induce a relaxing sleep.

Why would they need a microphone in the helicopter anyway? It's distance from whatever is happening on the road and the noise of the engine surely negates any reason for a microphone being there. Does it somehow add to our viewing pleasure? Are we to imagine ourselves as VIP's watching the drama of the race unfolding from high above, while we swill local wines and discuss the regional cheese? Brace yourselves people because I'm about to blow this deception wide open.... Its a sound effect, the coverage is full of them.

When the coverage crosses to the action on the road, if you listen very carefully to the sound of the motor bike you will notice somebody cheering in the background, the same cheering is repeated around every five seconds even when there are no roadside spectators... That's right, somewhere in a little booth there is a guy at a sound effects panel doing his best to make us feel like we are rolling along with the bunch or in the break. I wish I hadn't noticed it but I did and I cant un-notice it now. The breathtaking pictures we receive are more than enough to satisfy me, must they sully them with indigestible garnish? Why does our wonderful sport have to be ruined by lies?

Of course the issue Du Jour everyone seems to have their chamois in a knot over was the conduct of that yellow jersey thieving Spaniard. Predictably I was sound asleep as the drama unfolded and had to watch the highlights when I arose from my helicopter sound effect induced slumber, and what great highlights they were. I could see the larcenous intent in Contador’s eyes as he and that devious Kazakh sped away while poor Andy took what seemed like forever to get his chain back on and get moving again.

Of course unlike pretty much every other sport on the planet, in cycling if you’re a favourite in a race and the leader of that race (your opponent) has an inopportune mishap, you are expected to be chivalrous and dally unhurriedly, pending your foes rejoining the mêlée. Can you imagine this happening in Formula One or Pigeon Racing? Of course not. But in cycling as well as Omerta, there is also an unwritten rule that you wait for the yellow jersey in the event of a mishap. Here’s what poor Andy had to say about it.

Incidentally If you love controversy you should read about what happened to Nicholas Roche on stage 15.

I do feel for poor Andy, Contador fans are  saying Andy didn’t exactly wait for Berto during the cobbled high jinx of stage three did he? In fact he and his shifty Swiss team-mate put as much time as they could into their rivals, remember? That shady Australian was there too.

Are we all missing something? Obviously there must be a point in a grand tour after which etiquette dictates that you must wait for an incapacitated rival. We must be close to that cusp as opinion seems to be divided over Contador’s controversial manoeuvre. Evidently stage three was nowhere near that point because when Andy didn’t wait for Berto nobody mentioned any unwritten rules, but then again Berto wasn't wearing yellow at the time. These things really should be workshopped before the race just so everyone is on the same page, it would save so much endless cycling chat room banter.

Sometimes the viewing public needs a villain to generate a little more interest in the sport. In wrestling jargon the villain is known as the "heel". I'm not saying that the race organisers manufactured the the whole sordid affair to generate more interest but....

I’m not going to give you my opinion on the matter, the media is full of dedicated pundits offering their specialist analysis on the occurrence and I’m certainly no expert (you should have waited Berto). I only really watch the TDF to see the low budget television commercials for local bike shops anyway.
For entertainments sake, let your legs do the talking Andy and bring on the Tourmalet.