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Lee's Blog No 13

LEGENDS OF BRITISH CYCLING / GRAND DEPART

 

I never thought I’d see the day come when people in the UK actually knew what the phrase “Vive le vélo” means but following the success of Le Grand Départ in Yorkshire of the 101st Tour de France I realise that, if they don’t already know, then they will soon. Once seen as a minority pastime cycling has finally reached these shores and, given the size of the crowds and their appreciation, has captured the popular imagination. Quite frankly the numbers seen along the route of the opening stages were phenomenal and for a moment I had to be reminded this was actually happening here and not somewhere like Holland.

 

In Europe bike racing is a mainstream sport. It always has been and in certain countries it’s the sport but 30-odd years ago, when I left for France in pursuit of fame and fortune, the Tour was a curiosity covered by a five-minute report on ITV’s World of Sport on a Saturday morning. The printed press ignored it unless a Brit was involved directly at the pointy end and even then that wasn’t any guarantee of more than 50 words squeezed into a corner under the cricket results. If snooker or darts were having a regional competition, then forget it. Oh, how times have changed.

 

The deregulation of drinking hours was meant to introduce Britain to a more European lifestyle but it is debatable whether that has worked or not. The visit of the Tour de France, on the other hand, seems to hit the mark in a more subtle way. With towns, villages, businesses and houses decorated in yellow, green and polka dots there’s been a party atmosphere, just like you get in France when everything stops for the day and the locals watch the bike race come through. School kids get the day off, work stops for a while, neighbours and friends talk to each other and visitors fill the streets so there’s a sense of community and enjoyment of life. I think that’s more what the legislators had in mind – for a European style of living and that’s what we’ve seen along the route. Maybe we should have fewer town centre bars and more town centre races.

 

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Lee's Blog No 12

Tour of Britain: Liverpool to host 2014 Grand Depart in September

Liverpool has been chosen as the host city for the opening stage of the 2014 Tour of Britain on Sunday, 7 September.

Bristol, Bath and Brighton also host stages in the eight-day race, which begins on Sunday, 7 September.

One of the toughest challenges facing the riders will be a six-kilometre climb of The Tumble, above Abergavenny in Monmouthshire, during stage three.

Nine teams, headed by Team Sky, have already confirmed their participation in the race.

Tour of Britain winners

2013: Sir Bradley Wiggins (GB)

2012: Jonathan Tiernan-Locke (GB)

2011: Lars Boom (Ned)

2010: Michael Albasini (Swi)

2009: Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor)

2008: Geoffroy Lequatre (Fr)

2007: Romain Feillu (Fr)

2006: Martin Pedersen (Den)

2005: Nick Nuyens (Bel)

2004: Mauricio Ardila (Col)

The final stage of the race, which was won last year by 2012 Tour de France winner and Olympic champion Sir Bradley Wiggins, will include an individual time trial for the first time since 2011.

Seven new venues will welcome The Tour of Britain, in addition to returns to Liverpool, Worcester and Exeter.

"With our toughest summit finish yet, an individual time trial in London and several longer stages, this year's Tour of Britain has a varied and testing route that will present opportunities to a variety of riders," said race director Mick Bennett.

"The route will again showcase some fantastic scenery, and combine major British cities with charming and picturesque towns and villages, as well as testing climbs, all of which will make for a memorable Tour."

For the first time since 2008, Liverpool will host The Tour of Britain, with the opening stage consisting of a ten-lap, 130km stage starting and finishing on The Strand, beneath the world-recognised skyline of the city's Three Graces.

The battle for the race leader's yellow jersey will go down to the final day in central London, with both an individual time trial and circuit race taking place on the iconic 8.8-kilometre circuit that takes in the capital's best known landmarks, including the finish on Whitehall.

The Tour of Britain 2014 Tour Of Britian Logo

Stage One: Sunday 7 September, Liverpool

Stage Two: Monday 8 September, Knowsley to Llandudno

Stage Three: Tuesday 9 September, Newtown to the Tumble

Stage Four: Wednesday 10 September, Worcester to Bristol

Stage Five: Thursday 11 September, Exmouth to Exeter

Stage Six: Friday 12 September, Bath to Hemel Hempstead

Stage Seven: Saturday 13 September, Camberley to Brighton

Stage Eight a: Sunday 14 September, London individual time trial

Stage Eight b: Sunday 14 September, London circuit race

 

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Lee's Blog No 11


Greg LeMond says that without doping Lance Armstrong would have been top 30 at best in the Tour and certainly not top 5. LeMond knows more about the physiology required to win the Tour than most, but is he correct? Maybe. One could argue, though, that we just don’t have enough information to reach a solid conclusion. Aside from VO2 maxes and wattages and weights, what about dedicated team support, focused training, motivation and luck? There have been some transformations in recent history to win the Tour – Cadel Evans, Bradley Wiggins. Even Carlos Sastre seems an ‘unlikely’ winner. Why not Armstrong? There was never a level playing field to make comparisons; when Armstrong rode the Tour in the 90s, doping was rampant so his performances then are not much of guide. A clean rider has not been competitive until very recently. Armstrong swears he was not doping in 2009, while doping blood profile experts say he was, so whether he was third in a ‘clean’ Tour in 2009 is highly contentious. Overall, LeMond’s opinion should be highly respected, but he may not be right. Some claim Armstrong would have won seven Tours anyway, in a clean peloton, but that’s a counter-factual position as well. One suspects that Armstrong’s true abilities are overrated by some and underrated by others (LeMond included). But we will never know for sure. And does it matter? As philosopher Isiah Berlin said, “There is no… reason for believing that the truth, when it is discovered, will necessarily prove interesting.”

Your author’s copy of ‘Greg LeMond’s Complete Book of Bicycling’ is tattered and worn. It’s a secondhand copy, another copy having been given away to a friend who didn’t return it, or perhaps it was the author who moved away. Difficult to say. Some passages have been highlighted in this one: “Do the more intense workout before the less intense workout.”; “For every week you take off you should train three weeks.”; “Much more important than how many miles you’ve done is duration, how many hours you’ve done.” Whoever did the highlighting had some specific training in mind. Perhaps they, too, were considering how to approach their winter riding time? Elsewhere, the book – first published in 1988 – looks impossibly dated. LeMond warns against the 7-speed ‘freewheel’ as requiring a special chain and a re-dishing of the rear wheel. “The best compromise, and a common choice, is the six-speed unit.” Now a 10-speed cassette is standard, with perhaps 11-speed the exotic choice requiring special modification. On the front, LeMond advises that he usually uses a 53-42 combination. The final line of the book reads, “And I think the next chapter of cycling’s history should belong to America.” LeMond won the Tour two more times, just before Armstrong burst onto the scene. The next chapter did indeed belong to America, but not quite in the way LeMond would have expected.

LeMond overturns the myth of gear size, and that winter training should be limited to spinning. He discusses the importance of managing intensity in training. Elsewhere, the general advice is that winter is a good time for strength building, on and off the bike, which is particularly important for more ‘mature’ riders who naturally suffer from a decline in strength over time even though endurance can still be maintained. Your author has mentioned previously his new Contador-inspired approach to climbing (pas de boeuf). Winter seems the ideal time to keep focusing on the big ring, on strength development when rides must of necessity be short duration. Whether this will translate into appreciable gains for 2014 remains to be seen. And whether two rides a week maximum in the off season actually constitutes ‘training’ is another question indeed. “As a young rider,” LeMond writes, “it’s relatively easy to put off training and whip yourself into shape in a few weeks. But as an older rider that’s nearly impossible. You need to train consistently to stay in good condition, especially through the winter. You simply can’t put off training as you could as a youngster.” Bugger.

Greg Lemond Book

 

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Lee's Blog No 10

Giro d’Italia 2013 stages 14-17

 

November 2012, thats when the seed was sewn to book a trip to watch the 2013 Giro. After flights, hotels and car hire was priced and booked, the countdown to May 2013 was on. 4 Brits, 4 days, 1 bike race, I could not wait !!

No need to pack shorts and suntan lotion on this trip, it was fleece's, hats, gloves and scarfs. One of the lads watched one of the stages with 6 layers of clothing on.

Bardencchia

The beautiful town of Bardonecchia, was the setting for our first taste of the action, all boarding the Ski lift to the top of the finishing climb. The biggest adversary the riders have battled in the 2013 edition of the Giro seems to have been the weather, Italy’s famous scenery brought fog, rain & even snow forcing the main climb of Sestriere to be cut from the route & making the climb from Bardonecchia to Jafferau even more important for the climbers & GC hopefuls. If you were unable to watch the stage on Saturday you didn’t miss much, the cameras spent much of the day on the finish line with riders only appearing with 400m to go! That said to see the Maglia Rosa appear from the gloom alongside the flouro kit of Farnese Vini Santambrogio was a rather exciting moment and very much worth the wait! We were stood 200m from the finish line and even managed to grab Eurosports camera mans attention with our Union Jack Flag flying for the Brits. Nibali further advanced his lead on Evans & Uran.

Giro 2013 2 Giro 2013

The following days stage, started with bright sunshine, but the riders were dressed in full winter clothing as they knew what was to expect.Giro 2013 3 I thoroughly enjoyed my time spent at the starting village, watching each and every rider sign on and ride past within touching distance.Sign on With the weather wreaking havoc the previous day on lower slopes it looked as though the Giro’s celebration of the Galibier’s history was not to be. Avalanche warnings on Mt Cenis and the continuous struggles to keep the snow drifts of the legendary climb of the Galibier were ominous. Then as morning broke so did the storm clouds & the route was restored almost in full. Team SKY attempted an attack on the Telegraphe but were closed down. This is where we watched our hero's ride upwards and towards much steeper and colder stretches of tarmac. The stage win went to Movistar’s Visconti ahead of a much needed rest day before a solid week of mountains!

 

Due to road closures and severe weather warnings, we were unable to catch the riders on the lower slopes of the Col De Montcenis, but that didn't dampen our spirits, as the picturesque drive along the shores of Lake Annecy provided a perfect stopping point for lunch before boarding our plan back home. This was a wonderful four days away of bikes, beer, pizza and snow. Just dont mention the Grappa !!!!

 

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Lee's Blog No 9

Can shaving your legs offer any advantage for regular male cyclists?

lancelegs2

I don't race anymore, but many ordinary cyclists take a razor to their legs for reasons including vanity, tradition and function....

This week, for the first time in six months, I was able to go for a bike ride wearing shorts instead of winter tights.  Now I'm considering an even more radical concession to my favourite sport – shaving my legs.

This is already a well-practised custom within the ranks of the professionals.

Gerald Ciolek, who won last month's prestigious Milan – San Remo race said:

"There are some good and simple reasons for us doing it.  By shaving, you avoid the uncomfortable hair root infections that can be caused by our daily massages. Also, wounds simply heal faster after crashes and don't get infected as easily. Not to mention that it just looks better."

At the other end of the competitive spectrum, a Cat 4 rider who recently picked up his first points racing for in Scotland, says:

"I do it because cycling's tied to its history and, good or bad, leg shaving is part of that history. It's a cliché to say that it makes you feel slightly more serious about your sport, but the fact is that it does." 

 

Olympic gold medallist, hour record breaker and Tour de France prologue winner Chris Boardman believes shaving your legs can improve a rider's aerodynamics.

"You can shave in a certain way so that you leave your legs rough down the front edge but smooth at the side, creating an aerodynamic effect.
Aerodynamics is really important.  Human beings are a really crappy shape – a collection of tubes ostensibly – and 90% of the energy you produce on a bike goes towards pushing the air out of the way, so anything you can do to reduce drag has got to be a good thing."

Boardman knows exactly what a difference a bit of strategically positioned stubble can make to a rider's performance.  As the former head of research and development at British Cycling, he spent hours in a wind tunnel testing bikes, equipment, clothing and riding positions in search of "marginal gains" for the likes of Sirs Bradley Wiggins and Chris Hoy. He says:

"Having said all that, shaving your legs is mostly governed by vanity and tradition. Plus I used to get a massage every day, and with hairy legs that's rather unpleasant if the hairs get pulled."

When Boardman won gold on the track at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, he was riding a slice of carbon fibre designed by Mike Burrows, who later went on to revolutionise bike design with the compact frame (featuring the distinctive sloping top tube).

When it comes to the aerodynamic properties of depilation, Burrows recommends a Mohican for your legs.

"If you've got a little bit of hair on your legs it will turbulate [sic] the air so you get a better flow.  Now this in itself creates friction, so you don't want all your leg hairy you just want two thin strips, each about 10mm wide, just before the sides of your legs – though you will look really stupid.
You need the turbulent boundary layer – provided by these strips of hair - to get the air around the corner, and you need a smooth layer for it to flow over.  But the leg is such a rubbish shape that ideally you want an aerofoil on the back of it."

But the benefits of shaving aren't just scientific.  Some of them are sensual too. Shaw, who shaves his legs once a week, says:

"The best thing is that getting into bed feels pretty good!  It's women's best-kept secret: shaved legs and cotton bed sheets! But only up to my hips.  I heard a nasty story about an ingrowing hair on a club mate's perineum so I daren't go any further!"

And in the professional peloton, another Team MTN-Qhubeka rider, Johann van Zyl - currently competing against Wiggins in the three-day Giro del Trentino - says he would happily continue applying the razor even if he gave up racing.

"My girlfriend likes it because my skin feels better when brushing against her skin, and I like it because it looks cool, feels cool, makes me feel faster and even makes my legs look muscular.
Any recreational rider should cut off that leg hair, or avoid Lycra – the two do not mix well."

Let's know if you shave your legs, should it be for reasons of vanity, tradition or function?

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Lee's Blog No 8

The pothole season is upon us. A combination of water seepage followed by freezing conditions and a thaw means many of the UK's roads will be pockmarked with potentially wheel-crunching, fork-snapping craters in the coming weeks.

We currently have a special offer on our Pianni Titan Wheels that are one of the most robust wheel sets ever built.In addition to building lightweight / strong racing and sportive wheels we also specialise in bomb proof specials that will be perfect for all road conditions. See our specials page, quote this blog to receive a 5% discount.

Incidents involving potholes already account for an estimated 10 to 15% of all cycling accidents.Pothole

Kevin Clinton, head of road safety, warns: "The recent poor weather will cause even more potholes on our roads. These create a significant danger to cyclists, who could be unseated if they hit a large or deep pothole, or may be hit by other vehicles if they suddenly swerve around a pothole."

National cycling charity CTC , which operates a pothole-reporting website and smartphone app, calls the problem "a crucial issue" and says 15% of the crashes its legal department deals with are the result of highway defects.

British Cycling said that 12% of the accidents its members reported between April and September last year were the result of "a defective stretch of road or a spillage or obstruction in the cyclist's path".

Though the most recent (2011) Department for Transport figures for road casualties don't include a category for potholes, they reveal that of 13,000 reported cycling accidents, 1,110 included "loss of control", "swerving" or "sudden braking" as contributory factors.

Here's what to do if you suffer injury or damage to your bike as a result of a pothole:

• Note the dimensions of the hole - including depth and its position in the road in relation to the kerb - and its location. Also note any

other road defects in the vicinity.

• Take a photograph (with your phone if you have one) and try to include a sense of scale (eg by including your hand or foot in the photograph). Also try to give a sense of its position in the road.

• Take photographs of the damage to your bike and any injuries you have sustained.

• Report it to the local highways authority, usually the council. (If you're not sure which council is responsible for that road, you can find out by typing in the road or town name at the Gov.uk website.)

You can report it to the council directly, or via a website such as the CTC's FillThatHole , which also allows you to upload photos, give details of injuries/damage and pinpoint the exact location on a map.

• If the council doesn't admit liability and you decide to sue, consider joining the CTC or British Cycling who offer free legal advice.

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Lee's Blog No7

In what will be one of the most watched interviews of the year, Lance Armstrong has reportedly admitted to the use of doping substances during his illustrious cycling career with arguably the most influential woman in the world, Oprah Winfrey. Live coverage of the two-part show will be covered on Cyclingnews.

Armstrong's apparent confession comes in response to the mass of evidence compiled by the United States Anti-Doping Agency which exposed the systematic use of banned substances by the U.S Postal and Discovery Channel teams. USADA's 'Reasoned Decision' document and subsequent fallout saw Armstrong stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned for life.

Surley all cyclists and the worlds press will follow what is said to be a tell-all interview with the Queen of television – as it happens.

Cyclingnews' live coverage of Armstrong's interview will start 30 minutes prior to the show's start.

Coverage will begin on Thursday 17 January 8:30pm EST with broadcast to commence at 9:00pm EST. Friday's second-part will also be covered live, starting at 8:30pm EST with television broadcast at 9:00pm EST.

The interview will be shown during Oprah's Next Chapter program through the Oprah Winfrey Network.

Lance Interview

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Lee's Blog No 6

This is the time of year to contact us urgently, as the National Cyclo-Cross Championships are close. Here at petematthews.com, we have a large range of wheel components to suit every rider for this discipline.

Louisville, Kentucky, could be on the brink of  losing the right to host the 2013 cyclocross World championships, according to  the Gazet van Antwerpen (GvA). The event, which would be the first time  that the championships have been held outside Europe, is said to be under threat  because the organisers have not been able to raise the necessary finances.

So far the only sponsors to have been secured to support the event are the  Kentucky tourist board, Louisville Metro Parks, which is to be the event venue,  and the Louisville Sports Commission. The International Cycling Union (UCI) has  reportedly given the organisers until the end of this week to provide firm  assurance that the necessary finances are in place.
Also of concern is  the apparent lack of course construction. Louisville is also due to host the World masters championships on January 15th of next year as a warm up event.  With less than two months to go, there has reportedly been little progress, as  Belgian riders Bart Wellens and Rob Peeters (both Telenet-Fidea) discovered when  they visited the venue last week.
“The organisers urgently need to do  something,” said Wellens, according to Het Laatste Nieuws. “Absolutely nothing  has happened here.”
Losing the cyclocross world championships would be a  blow to cycling in the USA, which has just secured the road championships in  Richmond, Virginia for 2015. If the UCI was to take the event from Louisville,  the likely contenders to replace the US city would either be in Luxembourg or  France, says the GvA.

I have added an event schedule for any persons interested in the forthcoming UCI World's in Kentucky.


 

elite-worlds-programme 

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