Chris Boardman – Autobiography – Review

cyclingA few weeks ago, I received a review copy of Chris Boardman’s autobiography. This week I got around to reading and enjoyed the book. In terms of cyclist autobiographies, this ranks quite highly. It is interesting story, with many different aspects of cycling from domestic time trials to wearing the yellow jersey in The Tour de France. As well as his cycling achievements (and failures) you get a glimpse into the personality of Chris Boardman, and perhaps what he has learnt in life. There is a degree of humour and honesty which make the book an enjoyable read. If I had to choose a cyclist from that period of cycling who I genuinely admire, Chris Boardman would be near the top of a very short list. There is also the added interest of the fact that I can relate strongly to his early career (riding domestic time trials and hill climbs)  I have followed Boardman’s career from the epic time trial battles with Graeme Obree reported in “Cycling Weekly” to his emergence as a sane and powerful advocate for better cycling on British roads.

If any cyclist epitomises the spirit of British cycling it is Chris Boardman.

  • Domestic time triallist, multiple national champion – from national hill climb to national 25 mile TT competition record holder.
  • Olympic track cyclist. Gold medal in 1992 Barcelona Olympics (Britain’s first gold on track for 72 years).
  • Three times world hour record holder.
  • Multiple world champion on road and track.
  • First British wearer of yellow jersey since Tom Simpson in 1968.

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Tour de France 2017 review

This week I have been ill (again) so took advantage of the ability to watch some stages of the Tour de France on TV, from start to finish. I’m not sure whether it is actually a good thing to have the whole stage on TV, there are only so many French chateaux you want to see per day. Even the most ardent cycling fan can get bored of a few hours with the peloton plodding away.

 

At least this week, there were none of the completely flat 200km stages. Some individual stages were quite interesting and, even if the GC battle didn’t completely fire on all cylinders, at least the small time gaps were sufficient to give hope.

Overall, I thought it was a good race. Compared to watching the tour 15 years ago, I like the cyclists involved. I haven’t followed the recent furore of TUEs too closely, but it seems the peloton is very different to the bad old days of ‘he must not be named.’

I like seeing French riders do well, and it was a good tour for the French, who have the most exciting crop of new cyclists. This year Froome showed fewer signs of invulnerability, and a future French winner in a few years looks a real possibility. Whether it is Bardet, Barguil, Lilian Calmejane or Pierre Latour – they have a lot to choose from.

tour-de-france

L’Equippe evaluated that if you only included the mountain stages, Froome would have finished 3rd. With the winner being Uran or Bardet (can’t remember which). In the last time trial, Bardet did look completely out of place fighting his time trial bike up the steep hill; from my armchair, he looked more like a club rider doing the Buxton Mountain Time Trial – than a Grand Tour winner. Chris Froome went up the climb like he was completely in control. After the stage, Steve Cummings admitted he thought his team had got their gearing wrong and were over-geared making the climb too difficult. It seems such an elementary mistake of getting the wrong gearing is something that every team is capable of – every team – except Sky of course. Whatever you think of them, they always seem to be the best prepared. Though it does help when you have the talent to go with logistics. You could have had a pretty good Tour de France GC battle, just between members of Sky – Geraint Thomas, Mikel Landa, Michael Kwiatkowski all seem to have the capacity to win a Grand Tour.

In the end, Bardet’s dire time trial (dire in relative terms, of course) was just enough to keep the podium place by one second. If Sky’s Landa had pushed the Frenchman off the podium at the last minute, the atmosphere might have soured even more.

Not that it seemed to bother Froome. In responding to the challenges of a Brit riding in France, Froome frequently shows a degree of emotional intelligence and maturity which is rare in top sportsman. Another sportsman may have been peeved, but to his credit, Froome laughed it off as inconsequential. It is an attitude which gains the admiration of many – maybe even the French on the quiet. To put in perspective, Merckx and Anquetil (a Frenchman) both were booed – their crime to be the dominant rider of their generation.

I think Bardet should come over to the UK for a few months and learn how to ride time trials. A few times up and down the V718, getting beaten by 45-year old amateurs and he might learn to keep his head in the right place.

The other interesting thing is whether the organisers of the Tour de France would dare to remove all flat time trials and make it a tour for the French climbers?

Tour de France 2018

Looking forward to 2018, there is a bewildering range of possible challengers to Froome.

  • Tom Dumoulin (Giro winner and top TT)
  • Richie Porte (shame he crashed this year)
  • Nairo Quintana (who presumably will not do another four Grand Tours in succession.
  • Romain Bardet (if he can get better at TT’s)
  • Rigoberto Uran (who crept up anonymously into second place, refinding the form of a few years ago
  • Warren Barguil. Whose ability to climb away from GC riders on the last stage was quite impressive.
  • Fabio Aru. (yellow jersey wearer who might need to practise riding in Chris Froome’s wheels a little)
  • Mikel Landa (as long he doesn’t stay at Sky)
  • Dan Martin (maybe doesn’t quite have the legs, but he deserves to be up there for his attacking attitude.

Then there is the next generation of riders, who may or may not be able to make the next leap forward. From this list, you could pick from many of the Yates brothers, Pierre La Tour, or Louis Meintjes

There are even possibility of riders who won’t be able to challenge because they are super-domestiques, a la Geraint Thomas and Kwiatkowski.

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Long flat stages and Shibden Wall

This year we have the privilege of seeing a full stage in the Tour de France from start to finish – five hours of men pedalling bicycles. It can work both ways – on ‘hilly stages’ the start of a stage can be quite exciting as breaks form, break-up and new riders try to go across. On flat sprint stages, it’s mostly a long procession of castles and vineyards – if you’re lucky. The decision to go

The decision to go into the break on a ‘Marcel Kittel sprint stage’ seems to be about a few reluctant riders pulling the short-straw over breakfast. The main entertainment is seeing the faces of the odd rider who shoots off the front and despairingly looks behind to see if anyone else will come and share the workload for the inevitable doomed 190km breakaway. The Tour de France is the pinnacle of the sport, but there is no cycle race in the world where there is so little interest in going in a breakaway. Continue Reading →

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Cycling to exams in the heat

It is 30 degrees plus here in Oxford. It is also exam season with many students making their way to exams on the High Street. Some cycle in sub-fusc to save a few minutes for extra revision. I always remember cycling to exams. Walking from LMH was too far.

texting on bike

Last minute revision or getting a good luck text?

oxford-professor

Good to see Oxford Professor’s on their bicycles, but I don’t know what Drag2Zero would make of those cycling clothes.

oxford studentyoung, old and students. Continue Reading →

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Trapping Hill and Nidderdale

I’m up in Yorkshire, so have been taking the opportunity to cycle up some ‘proper’ hills. I can’t do as much as I would like. Rather like an old man, I seem to take a few days recovery after any effort with ongoing issues. Still, something is better than nothing. After watching the Tour de Yorkshire on tv, I couldn’t resist visiting Lofthouse and Trapping Hill. (I’m not really keen on all this Franglais stuff –  Cote d’flipping steep hill sounds a bit weird). Trapping hill brings back memories of my first bike rides, aged 14 – when I  went camping at How Steen Gorge and being amazed at how difficult Trapping Hill and Greenhow Hill were.

trapping-hill-view

View from top

Trapping Hill isn’t quite as invincible as it felt as a newbie cyclist aged 14. When I visited on Saturday, tather fortuitously there was a tailwind up the climb, and the road had been newly repaved. If this smooth road was due to the Tour de Yorkshire effect, I hope it becomes a three-week grand tour. With a three-week Tour we could even afford to have stages across the border in Lancashire.

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Tour de Yorkshire 2017

I enjoyed watching the Tour de Yorkshire – recognising roads often cycled on, huge crowds, familiar climbs and quite a few local riders I have raced against at different times. People say the crowds are as big as Liege-Bastogne-Liege but the last time I watched Liege-Bastogne-Liege, I didn’t see any crowds on the scale of Yorkshire.

I spent more time watching Tour de Yorkshire than the Tour de France. On Saturday I enjoyed seeing Lizzie Deignan and Anne van der Breggen fly up the Cote du Lofthouse, that was a good race. The third stage on Sunday was great because it went past my old school Bradford Grammar, up Hollins Hill and past Menston all the way to Burnsall. Yesterday, there was tremendous interest in the page on Shibden Wall – the 21% cobbled climb.

Watching tv, I thought the Peleton weren’t going at full flight on Shibden Wall – perhaps not but when I saw the times on Strava I knew that looks can be deceptive – it was still pretty quick. I have ridden it once and now want to go back and have another go.

In the end, after 10,000 ft of climbing, it was a good finale to the race with Serge Pauwels hanging onto a slender advantage and taking the first win of his pro career.

I took some shots of my tv, but it doesn’t do justice to some of the crowds in the road.

Shibden Wall Continue Reading →

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Touring in The British Isles

At the moment, it seems all my cycling friends are going off on epic cycle tours around the British Isles. PJ is live blogging from his solo tour from around the abandoned medieval hamlets of Leicestershire and the like.

“Once you get out of the towns and cities, weaving a stitched line along the OS map, it’s quite startling how English everything becomes. The rural landscape, imaginative, physical, demographic and imaginative, is very much middle England, punctuated by the flag of St George, villages in thrall to a vision of the past that is at once bucolic, refreshing, but clearly at odds with the more modern subjectivity of the city dweller.”

Traumradfahren

When I went racing around England, I found a similar observation, in places such as Hampshire, Gloucestershire, Leicestershire – you came across all these villages which were quintessentially English in a way you felt only existed in 1950s Mrs Marple films. For me, cycling around the countryside was the best education there was more to England than Bradford and the inside of Oxford pubs.

I took this photo driving back from Nat HC 2010. But I have cycled up here a few times.

However, no matter how impressive consecutive days of 91 miles may sound, there’s always someone with a bigger ride. My team-mate Vilas Silverton writes an entertaining account of a 400km ride in the middle of March. – An early season 400km All night Audax rides in freezing winter seem to attract a particular breed of rider. A rider who revels in sleeping in bus shelters with the height of luxury being popping into a petrol station to ‘borrow’ a few plastic bags to try and keep warm. Silverton sets the scene for a frosty night ride. Continue Reading →

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John Woodburn

John Woodburn, who sadly passed away April 15, 2017, was a multiple national cycling champion whose long-running career included several place to place records.

John-Woodburn-Cycling-Weekly-Archive-630x420

John Woodburn Cycling-Weekly Archive

In 1961, Woodburn became the first person to win national 25 mile champion riding a geared bike. In 1982, at 45 years of age, he also set the cycling record for the 847 miles journey from Lands End to John O Groats. His time was one day, 21 hours, 3 minutes and 16 seconds. (average speed 18.828mph)

In addition, Woodburn’s career included:

  • RTTC British Best All-Rounder in 1978 (first Vet to win BBAR)
  • National 12 hour TT champion
  • Competing in international Peace Run 1963 stage race, where he finished 14th.
  • Currently holds age group records including:
    • 21 minute 10 mile TT at age 73
    • 25 mile TT – 51-minute, at age 63.
  • Several place to place records, including London to Bath and back record – Woodburn was particularly proud of this because it involved beating Les West’s record.

Personal reminiscences

John-Woodburn-Lands-End-J-O-Groats-1-768x971

John Woodburn on Lands-End to John ‘O Groats ride

I met John Woodburn at my second ever open time trial in 2005. At the time, I had no idea who he was or anything about his lengthy and wide-ranging palmeres. Continue Reading →

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Unadventurous cycling in Queens, New York

Recently, I wrote that an attraction of cycling was taking random roads and hoping for the best. The British countryside can encourage an adventurous spirit – if nothing else you can enjoy a new view, new road – even if you later do a u-turn. But, it’s not always the Yorkshire Dales or the Cotswolds – I also spend four weeks a year in Queens, New York. I’ve written about cycling in New York before – rarely with any degree of praise or recommendation. To cut a long story short, it’s a tough place to cycle – you rarely see cyclists on the road and for good reason too. As a result, I ride defensively and with unerring routine. I basically have two rides, which never go beyond 30 miles.

wide-track-velodrome-kissena

One ride is to cycle two miles south to Kissena Boulevard outdoor velodrome. Here I cycle around in 250-metre circles for an hour before I can’t take it anymore – and then cycle the two miles back home. I don’t have a power meter in New York, so just try to make sure I keep an average of over 20mph for the velodrome riding. It’s a bit more fun if there are other cyclists there too. Last week a random cyclist latched onto my wheel for quite a few laps. It encouraged me to very slowly raise the pace from 20 to 21mph then 22mph. After about 10 minutes I reached 25 mph and suddenly my wheel sucker friend went pop and lost contact. I didn’t mind, in fact, I was grateful that he gave me the motivation to ride harder than usual. It was a surprisingly good feeling to just ride someone off your wheel by imperceptibly raising the pace. It also reminds you how hard it can be to motivate yourself when cycling on your own. Continue Reading →

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Riding through injuries and niggles

Last weekend, I spent three days with no bicycle in Germany and my leg problems got worse. When I got back I actually had to take another day off the bike, at that rate I was despairing of ever seeing an end in sight.

But, at the same time, I was hopeful that I could just ride through and keep going. This weekend I’ve been up in Yorkshire, and it’s been great for a few reasons. The weather is excellent. Yorkshire in spring with the sun out takes some beating. But, at least this weekend, the more I cycle the less I’m getting bothered by old injuries and niggles. Saturday I made a visit to Pateley Bridge for one of my favourite climbs – Greenhow Hill. All told it was 50 miles and just short of 2,000m of climbing. After an easy day going to Grassington, (an easy day in the Yorkshire Dales can still mean 1,000m of climbing) I went south-west towards Silsden and some steep hills around there. This year I’ve done relatively little in terms of volume of training (compared to previous years), But, in the past week, I’ve started to feel in good shape. The top end fitness has come back quite quickly. It is also a psychological boost to get the summer bike out of the loft.

descent-sutton-in-craven

Ellers Road looking back towards Sutton-in-Craven near Keighley.

From Sutton-in-Craven, I went up Ellers Road – a tough climb of 1.4 miles at 10%, with a particularly difficult beginning. It’s a very good test. I also found a new climb just to the south of Ellers Road. It is a climb called ‘Dick Lane’ or the ‘Cote de Dick’ if it gets in the Tour de Yorkshire. It is a very nice climb, 1.4 miles at 7% (and unlike its near neighbour Ellers Road – never too steep.) It is a smooth gradient, decent road surface and outstanding views across the valley to the left. I’ve been cycling in Yorkshire for 25 years but it’s still surprising how you can come across a new climb less than 15 miles from your house. Continue Reading →

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