Tour de France 2019

The 2019 Tour de France was a memorable edition of the race. Team Ineos were relatively weak but still walked away with first and second place. After Alaphillipe and Thibaut Pinot lit up the race to the excitement of the home nation, the only French podium was Romain Bardet – not something you could have predicted from the stage on the Tourmalet. There were many highlights of the race, but the sight of Alaphillipe racing away on short climbs to nab the yellow jersey and then hold on for such a long time, were probably the best. It’s not often you get excited about time trials, but Alaphillipe racing up the final climb of the TT stage with thousands of French roaring him on was a goose-pimple moment – he was going so fast, he could have been doing a 1-minute British hill climb. Continue Reading →

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Supporting the French

It’s been a really great Tour de France. I’ve even found myself supporting the French! But, now it reaches the third week, I hope Geraint Thomas comes strong and nips past both the French riders on the last day in the Alps. I don’t think it is so much supporting the French as hoping for an interesting race, where many riders are in contention and with each stage, you can never be sure how it unfolds. Also, it makes a huge difference when one team doesn’t have a dominant mountain train to discourage any and every attack.

Tour de France stage 2

It has always been a shame that the Tour de France is usually the ‘flattest’ of all Grand Tours. The Giro and Vuelta rarely fail to give real interest in the GC, but – despite the odd edition, the Tour de France GC usually ends up being fairly predictable. But, this year it is all up in the air and there seems to be a lot more positive energy around the tour. Crashes are down; there isn’t even any doping saga hanging over the tour.

I think the organisers are finally cottoning on to the idea that seven flat sprint stages don’t make for great tv. I expect for the next few years; there will be a lot of Alaphillipe style stages with short viciously steeps climbs just before the finish. If the Tour is short of ideas, I would recommend going back to Yorkshire for a good week!

tormalet

Watching the tour go up the Tourmalet was a great experience. It is one of the few Alpine* style climbs I’ve ridden – what an amazing amphitheatre for sport. In terms of drama, it couldn’t match Sunday and other previous stages, but I was just enthralled by the spectacle and scenery. How I would like to be climbing up the Tourmalet on top form.

Nobody can predict with any certainty how the next week will unfold, but there is an old adage in the tour, that the best guide is a rider’s record in previous Grand Tours. Form and panache are one thing, but does the rider have the staying power for three weeks? With this in mind, I would put my money on Geraint Thomas – but not very much. He’s still struggling to gain the leadership of Team Ineos. But, a big thing in his favour is the proven ability to stay strong for a whole three-week tour. It is possible that the Alpine climbs (which are not quite as steep as the Pyrenees, will suit Thomas more than the Pyrenees.

Bernal, Alaphillipe, Buchman, Landa and to a lesser extent Kruijswijk all look very good, but as of yet, they don’t have a strong track record of winning a Grand Tour. If Alaphillipe cracks in the Alps, it will be easy to say we all expected it. But, if he doesn’t crack we will also say – well he had such good form why would he crack? It always looks obvious after the event. Anyway, the school holidays are here. A rest day today, Tuesday flat stage, but who knows a strong wind could make it very interesting.

 

(* I know the Tourmalet is in the Pyrenees, but I always find Pyreanean an intimidating word to spell.)

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The importance of cyclists taking out 3rd party insurance

The case of a cyclist Robert Hazeldean who collided with a pedestrian – whilst she stepped out onto the road whilst looking at her mobile phone has created a lot of media interest – especially with Hazeldean facing a legal bill of up to £100,000

It touches on a few trigger points for modern life.

  • People distracted by mobile phones.
  • Litigation culture which encourages people to sue, even if they are wholly or partially to blame. (and penalising those who fail to counter-sue)
  • Conflict on the roads between different groups – cars, pedestrians and cyclists.

As a cyclist, you might assume if you follow the rules of the road and if a distracted pedestrian steps out in front the law would protect you. But, in this case, the judge ruled that cyclists

“must be prepared at all times for people to behave in unexpected ways.”

Third Party Insurance

The easiest take away from this case, is the desirability for cyclists to get third party insurance. One of the easiest ways is to get it through membership of a cycling organisation like British Cycling or Cycling UK. I used to be covered through British Cycling, but since I am not racing, I have allowed my membership to lapse (though I could have got their commuter license). As a direct result of this case, today I signed up to Cycling UK. £46 a year seems a reasonable investment, and you get to support a cycling advocacy organisation too.

It’s difficult to accurately pass judgement on a case, where you only hear third party snippets. But, I instinctively prefer to side with the cyclist and not the pedestrian distracted by their phone. However, whatever the fairness or justice of the case – it is a reminder that, as road users we need to be careful.

The judge also made the comment

“Even where a motorist or cyclist had the right of way, pedestrians who are established on the road have right of way.”

Continue Reading →

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Small changes to road infrastructure make big difference

Back in 2010, I wrote a blog post (my old blog) about a lack of integration between two cycle paths. My complaint was that there was a good cycle path, but it ends at a narrow section of road where cars can come quite fast.

“The cycle path runs parallel to the Oxford Ring Road. It is a good cycle path for avoiding a very busy road. The cycle path then joins Iffley road, where the council have recently painted a cycle lane on. But cars often come off the roundabout at quite a high speed. At the end of the cycle path, you have to take great care joining the road, as it is quite narrow.”

If only the council would extend the cycle path a little, they could make it a much better transition to the on road cycle-path.

Nine years later

Nine years later, the council have done it! They have extended the cycle path along the grass verge. When the new cycle path ends, it is safer for entering the road. it is wider, and at this point, there is a cycle path painted on the road.

short-cycle-path

It makes for a seamless transfer from the cycle path which goes around the ring road and onto Iffley Road.

Sometimes as cycle bloggers, we make fun of short cycle lanes which don’t really go anywhere.

shortest-cycle-path

But, this one in Oxford is an example of a short cycle path which makes a positive difference.

Of course, I still think there is room to keep the cycle path going along the grass verge so you don’t have to go on the road. This might encourage more people to cycle if it is segregated lane – rather than integrated with road. But, then beyond the end of this picture, there is a junction where you would have to rejoin the road anyway.

It’s nice to be able to complement improved cycle provision – even if it is only a modest improvement.

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Surviving on the roads

Over the years of cycling, I have developed the habit of shouting ‘careful!’ at any danger, annoyance or inconsiderate user of the roads. There are a lot worse things to shout out. It gets the point across without being too confrontational. It has become such an ingrained habit, it happens without thinking. On many occasions, it is really important to shout to raise awareness. A bell can be too slow or quiet. But shouting “Careful!” has definitely woken up some drivers, pedestrians or other cyclists who weren’t paying attention. Mostly, it goes down quite well. The other day I was cycling through town, I shouted ‘careful’ at a driver, and she stopped and waved to say thank you. I am always pleasantly surprised when people thank you – rather than shouting back.

It doesn’t always go down perfectly. I was cycling in Headington and a cyclist was cycling the wrong way the road. I had to swerve out into the road to miss him, so I shouted ‘careful’. In response, he very nicely said: “**** off”.

I inwardly said to myself ‘Welcome to Brexit Britain!’ – which kind of made me laugh so I didn’t get too annoyed. It is a funny trait of human nature that when we wrong somebody – we can simultaneously blame them and be angry at them – even though it is our fault. The worst abuse I have received on the roads is from people who have nearly run me over because of their lack of care. I should say this is very rare given the kilometers I have cycled over the past few decades. Continue Reading →

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Triple puncture

I cycled to a cafe in Oxford and a young lad said to me ‘I’m glad you started writing your blog again.’ It was nice to be recognised but I felt a bit bad. I didn’t have the heart to say I had just updated some broken links in old posts. Rather annoyingly, if I update an old post, the automatic email sender sends out again these posts of dubious value – like on the lightest wheels from 2017.

Anyway, I now feel suitably obliged to write a cycling blog. The problem is I don’t have that much inspiring to write about. March was quite a good month for my cycling – the hip pain was in the background, and I went out to do quite a few miles. Buoyed by this, I tried a short 20-mile hill interval session in New York. It was really tough and my times were 40 seconds down on the peak of a few years ago. It all felt hardwork and rather joyless, but after the ride, the old problems returned so I could do nothing for the next 10 days.

The weather has been so good in the past few days, you feel obliged to try and get on your bike. On Saturday, I did 13 miles to Stanton St John. I was coming back to Oxford under Headington roundabout and I picked up a puncture. I saw the air coming out of a hole in the side of the tyres. When I get a puncture, I have now started to time myself to see how quickly I can mend the puncture. Perhaps it’s part of the gamification of all aspects of cycling. Or maybe it’s just the mindset of a time triallist – always trying to set new PB’s. If you can’t do it on your bike, do it mending a puncture.

I remember the days when a puncture was a real disaster and could take forever to fix. This time I managed to fix in seven minutes, which I was quite pleased with. However, within another 100m, I had got another puncture. It wasn’t a pinch flat, but a piece of glass. I swear despite going for a puncture pb, I checked the inside of the tyre for sharp pieces. But, there it was – another puncture. So I cleared the tyre of the glass and then set to trying to break my puncture PB of 7 minutes. But, alas, my last spare inner tube didn’t want to inflate. My minipump was working – but I couldn’t for the life of me get any air into my last inner tube. Eventually, I had to admit defeat with three useless inner tubes sitting on the bypass grass. Continue Reading →

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Off-road cycling

As a road cyclist, I generally turned my nose up at off-road cycle networks – too slow, bumpy and muddy. But I have been cycling around Oxford and enjoyed following bike paths to different venues.

cycle-path

This is a cycle path from the River Thames down the back of Kennington and the main-railway. It took me to Sandford Lock, another crossing of the River Thames I had never used before. I have cycled all over the country, but am still finding new routes within a few miles of my home.

It was very quiet on this cycle path, and apart from a few trains roaring past, a sense of being deep in the countryside. It’s been a dry March so the path is stone-dry, I don’t know what it would be like after rain. It’definitely has many advantages over the road system. For riding off-road, there are probably better bike set ups than narrow road tyres pumped up to 90psi. I wouldn’t want to cycle all day over this bumpy track.

Inspired by cycling around Oxford, I have made efforts to get back on road bike and do some ‘proper’ cycling. It has gone better than I expected and is quite promising. I have been to a private specialist for my hip.  He gave a Cortiscoid injection which didn’t seem to make any difference (glad in a way – if you know the history of cycling.) More scans. But, whether due to the long break or something else, I have been able to get back on the bike, with less problems than before. We shall see where it goes.

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3 mins of high intensity exercise

In the past few months, I haven’t done any *proper* cycling (i.e. wearing lycra and clipless pedals)

All my cycling has been on my commuting bike within the Oxford ring road. It is mainly a commute into town. It has slowly grown from a 2.5-mile commute to a 4.0 mile commute (which makes around 8 miles a day). The extra 1.5 mile has made a big difference to the enjoyment of the cycling and benefits to fitness.

bike-path

Firstly, I took a detour to avoid the main roads and to be able to cycle on the excellent river towpath. It’s all flat, no traffic and wide enough. It also has fantastic views over Christ Church Meadow.

tree-lane-autumn

Back of tree lane in Autumn

However, the flat cycle path wasn’t quite enough. Almost unconsciously I found myself taking a detour up two short hills (around Rose Hill). The roads are very quiet and off the beaten track.

The first hill is called Tree Lane and then there is a descent down a bumpy private road. Then around the corner in Iffley Village, there is another hill called Adderbury Lane. Continue Reading →

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Race Blade Pro XL Mudguards Review

race-blade-xl

I’ve been a big fan of clip-on mudguards for many years. However, they do have a habit of breaking after several years of use. Parking bikes in Oxford is a bit rough and tumble, so these flexible mudguards tend to get a bit battered.

old-battered-mudguards

I got a few coats dirty using this depleted mudguard. Definitely time for an ugrade

With my rear mudguard snapped in half, it was a good excuse to upgrade to the latest model – Race Blade Pro XL. Continue Reading →

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Bali bicycle

I spent a few weeks in Bali. No cycling, though a little swimming in the ocean, which was nice.

There were not many bicycles in Bali, which is probably due to the dangers of road traffic here.

I did meet this chap cycling on his bike. He was cycling so slowly I could keep up with him by walking very fast. I admired his poise. Impatient traffic was beeping him loudly as they wanted to squeeze past on these narrow roads, but he seemed completely unmoved. If it was me, I might have tried cycling a little faster, but he never altered his speed or position on the road.

In Bali, there are many mopeds on the roads, and you can sometimes see a family of four squeezed onto the back of one – usually without any crash hats.

Roundabouts also have a different meaning in Bali, you don’t go around the roundabout, but just straight to your preferred exit – contraflow so to speak. It was interesting to see – though not something I would be particularly inclined to cycle in.

 

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