Squadra di Vecchi Tori

Tour Notes – Sunday 17 July – Feed-station – some philosophical observations and other matters by kiwicyclist
July 18, 2011, 7:19 am
Filed under: Biased Generalisations


As I mentioned in this morning’s post, today was a non-riding day for half our touring group and a great opportunity to take part in a stage as the locals do.
We left the beautiful city of Toulouse at 8.00 am in gently falling rain and heavy skies to travel further into Provence towards Avignon. Like the riders in the Tour itself, today was a transition day for us as well with a short 2 night stay in Avignon beckoning and only a short ride option on offer for those who felt so inclined. We were aiming for the town of Cessenon Sur Orb which was where the feed-station was located.
The countryside heading to our destination is fairly typical of Provence – rolling hills, scrubby dry riverbeds and miles of vineyards punctuated by picturesque small old sandstone villages where the main road twisted and turned right through the centre of town.
As we made our way through to Cessenon the topography gradually became more undulating and we noticed increasing numbers of cars and campervans parked on the side of the road leading up to the small cat 4 KOM climb.
What struck me looking out the window directly into the colorful roadside crowd on the narrow roads was an example of what the French might describe as joie de vie. Under cold, threatening skies there were people of all ages out on the side of the road from around 10am onwards parked up with deck chairs and picnic tables set up, normally with a spread of French bread, cheese and preserved meats and a bottle of vin de table or an aperitif within easy reach. And bear in mind the race proper would not come through for around another 5 hrs!
As I said to our tour guide it is remarkable to consider from an antipodean context where we spend so much time rushing, rushing, rushing through life, the willingness of ordinary local people here to drive out into the countryside, park up for most of a day, enjoy good simple food and wine en plein air, for the simple opportunity to watch a bike race scream past at 40 or 50ks/hr in the space of 15minutes. That sums an appreciation of simple things for me.
My other reflection on this notion of joie de vivre came over lunch. We parked the bus just near the start of the feed-station on the outskirts of town and Mark and I wandered back into the village centre to find somewhere to have a coffee and lunch. We came upon what would be the main village square where the local Tabac had set up an outdoor restaurant and had the Tour playing on a large screen connected to a laptop and some speakers.

Again locals and tourists alike sat under the tarpaulin enjoying entrecote et frites washed down with tap beer soaking up the atmosphere. Many of the houses had 2 storied shuttered windows overlooking the main race route through town and there were people leaning out taking advantage of the great views. It seemed as if the whole town had come out to enjoy the color and spectacle of the great bike race – people lolled about inside in the bar watching the TV coverage or sat outside smoking and relaxing, not particularly fussed at the slow and overworked service coming from the waiting staff.

Down the main street again picnic tables and chairs were pulled into front yards and it seemed to me that the locals were enjoying the excuse for a leisurely lunch and catch-up with neighbours and friends with the race being an incidental but necessary ingredient.
This is part of the beauty of travelling in the French countryside chasing the world’s greatest sporting event. We occasionally glimpse into the lives of local people enjoying an easier pace of life where simple things like good food, excellent wine, companionship and community appear to matter – where the art of le velo and the progress of your favorite rouleur is of great significance.
So to the locals in Provence I have seen today chapeau for your joie de vivre.

On the road:

Our drivers:

Ricard mixed with water

Eurosport and the Giro by marcusoc
May 20, 2010, 12:14 am
Filed under: Biased Generalisations, Pro Cycling

For those with Eurosport via Foxtel, the coverage of the Giro has had as many ups and downs as the race itself. They have an uncanny knack for timing ad breaks with times when breaks are being made in the race itself. It wouldn’t be so bad if the ads were about something other than telling us to watch sport (mainly cycling) on Eurosport, ie. if Eurosport was actually getting an earn out of the ad, you couldn’t really blame them. But instead we get our cycling coverage interrupted by ads to watch cycling on Eurosport.

“Mr. Eurosport, I was watching ‘Cycling on Eurosport’ until you put your ad on telling me to watch ‘Cycling on Eurosport’. Now I am watching an ad for ‘Cycling on Eurosport’. As soon as the ad for ‘Cycling on Eurosport’ finishes, rest assured I will go right back to watching ‘Cycling on Eurosport’.”

Main commentator David Harmon is endearingly enthusiastic but gee he makes some howlers – still better than Liggett though. Last night’s finish was particularly notable in that he mistook the stage winner Evgeni Petrov for his Katusha teammate, Giampaolo Caruso – not for a second or two, but for the whole of his finish and minutes after. This led to a few minutes of waxing lyrical about Italy finally getting their first stage win. An advert came on (funnily enough, for ‘Cycling on Eurosport’) and on return, Harmon says something like, “actually it’s Evgeni Petrov, sorry for the mistake”. Didn’t really worry me too much as I was still trying to work out WTF Vino, Cadel and Liquigas were doing. But then Harmon won my affections back by making a true apology – to quote, “That was an absolutely rubbish piece of commentary and I really do apologise.” – very British of him. Hope the (former) GC leaders take a leaf out of Harmon’s book and all do some apologising rather than blaming others for shooting themselves in the foot.

And it would have been nice of Eurosport to stay with the coverage long enough to see another Aussie put on some pink.

And as for co-commentator Sean Kelly, its almost like Harmon has to coax words out of him with questions like, “Would you have liked racing in today’s conditions Sean?”

And the stunning brevity of his answers is only challenged by his inability to impart anything meaningful to the viewers. In response to the question above, “Yes…[massive pause]..” followed by a few inanities about riding in the rain, “it gets very wet for the riders”. Thanks Captain Obvious! 

Would far prefer to listen to Matt Keenan but the SBS coverage sees him doing voiceovers of shots that look like they were taken out of a helicopter with one of those sh-tty cameras that get used for home porn videos.

Might have to go back to redtube, I mean, live streaming tonight.

In the meantime, go Richie Porte – almost looks like he is still carrying a little puppy fat compared to the “real” GC boys, but stranger things have happened. Maybe its time for Basso or Vino to give Floyd a call to get one of those steroid patches that worked so well to claw back the big gap on Pereiro in the ’06 Tour. Just remember to take it off your nuts before bed boys!

What is your cycling character? by marcusoc
May 19, 2010, 1:02 am
Filed under: Biased Generalisations, Making Fun of Others

Everywhere in the world, there are certain cycling characteristics that traverse race, creed and gender. From time to time we will introduce a few of these characters to you. But rest assured, if you ride, you have already met them and may well be one of them.

Today’s featured specie is the Hard Man (or Woman)

THM has a pathological urge to be at the front for the vast majority of any ride. Three notable strategies he employs are i) elongated one-paced turns at the front and/or increasing pace whilst on the front, ii) cheeky/ dangerous lane changes in the bunch to keep close to the front of the rotation (careful, THM is invariably a shit bike handler), and iii) his specialty, the Half Wheel.

Beware, prolonged close proximity to a THM at the front of a bunch is dangerous and can readily induce pain. Lets take a look at a couple of the THM sub-species and recommended methods of skullduggery for dealing with them.

The Flat Road Hard Man 

Quite often a fresh immigrant from another sport like rowing or triathlon – no bibs and a pristine small chainring are distinctive parts of his plumage. FRHM typically possesses a lower IQ than other bunch species. Good fodder for the bunch as FRHM can often be used up on the flat then spat out when things get bumpy. Very valuable asset to have in a race as FRHM thrives on the notion that he is causing pain to others. Say something like, “You are killing us Smithy” and you are guaranteed a beast of burden for as long as he can go. Often seen post-race/ride lamenting the fact that he has no sprint and is a diesel engine. However the truth is that FRHM may well have a very nice sprint if he didn’t burn all his matches beforehand. Do not divulge this piece of information to FRHM – although he may need to be told 5 or 6 times before he understands it (most FRHMs never really do get this), if FRHM does finally understand, a monster may be created. Second warning, if FRHM learns how to climb, he becomes a very undesirable riding companion. Consequently, never tell him to ride an easier gear going uphill or to dose his effort.

It is your duty to other cyclists to maintain FRHM in his natural unspoiled form for as long as possible.

The Climbing Hard Man

Unlike his Flat Road cousin, the CHM is a little bit like a nocturnal animal – only noticeable at certain times, namely in the hills (when he is at or off the front) or at the beach (where sand is being kicked in his face). Whilst FRHM is often an affable lad who can be easily manipulated, CHM usually has more than a little nastiness in him – a vestige from his past when he was made fun of at school for his “Mathlete” tendencies – and requires more subtle methods. A typical weakness of the CHM is a distinct dislike of close contact within the bunch as schoolyard bullying has caused him to be generally afraid of the company of others. 

Like a rodent, the CHM must be dealt with BEFORE he has the chance to cause damage in his preferred environment. Physical intimidation is permitted. Additionally, at every opportunity, the CHM must be encouraged to race criteriums where he can be further bullied into submission. Fabrications can help in this regard, such as, “next week’s course is really hilly with sweeping turns” (presuming he doesn’t know the course) or “you are gapping me on every corner these days. You should give the crits a go again.”

CHM never buys coffee for others and can often be seen producing coins when splitting the bill.

For the Advanced Cyclist

Cycling Masters can achieve “simultaneous exhilaration” by manipulating FRHMs to “put the hurt on” hard and early in a ride which can, if done correctly, eject the CHM before the hills, and then see FRHM blow up in the early stages of a hill. The second part of this particularly satisfying, but all too rare, outcome is when CHM, after being dropped before the climb collects you on the way up and you hang on until the top. CHM hates this (he hates company remember). If you can do this and appear in complete control at the top, you are on your way to cycling nirvana.

Stay tuned for more characters.