While the wind and rain are lashing the UK we are preparing to switch our collective attention away from our sinking Noah’s Ark to mainland Europe for the greatest cycling race in the world…. with the pavé of the Champs Elyse looming in the distance. Some riders will just hope to make it round the last few bone shaking kilometres in one piece while a hardy few who suffered at the back through the mountains will be licking their lips with relish at attempting to take the glorious final stage at an astonishing pace (one particular Manxman springs to mind).
…But lets not get ahead of ourselves, before the cobbles comes an array of stages from the pan flat to the ridiculously steep and impossible mountains that us mere mortals get breathless just gawping at before we attempt to slowly plod up. Most wouldn’t even consider clipping their feet to a bike frame for a pain filled single effort to the cloud covered peaks.
I’m getting prepared to immerse myself in the epic vistas that will appear before my eyes. I’ve treated myself to the new limited edition howies KOM T-Shirt and placed an order for the rest of the set so I can celebrate each stage profile in style. I’m resigned to the fact that I’m never going to win my own yellow, spotty or green jersey… it’s ok really, I’m over it. ;D
So I feel it would be wrong to buy a replica jersey to wear, I’m not keen on being one of those people that buys their favourite teams statically charged ill fitting replica shirt, at least my T-shirt won’t look odd when I’m out and about, it can be worn any time of the year… And as you may have noticed the shopaholic in me is justifying the purchase, my partner would normally respond to such a justification… “I’m sure it was a bargain too!”. I’m comfortable just celebrating the greatness of the tour with my new t-shirt (which was a bargain!), turbo trainer and friends. I like to get some miles in while I’m glued to the action (when time allows), I don’t like the idea of just slobbing while watching TV, I never have, it seems so wrong particularly during a bike race. I get restless legs. I have to ride, and since I’m still not sure if I’ll make it over for some of this years stages I thought I’d get organised, fingers crossed I will be there, I have my bag ready! For some of the weekend stages we’ll gather the gang together for a Tour celebration of food and festivities.
Us Brits are feeling nervously excited as this year could be Wiggo’s, there are so many variables in the Tour de France and I wouldn’t want to jinx it for him but we are quietly confident that he can step on to the podium and hopefully take the top step. We have great pride in Cav’s Rainbow Jersey too which he’ll be sporting in this years Tour, it’s been 46 years since a British rider has done this so it’s turning out to be a fabulous few years for GB riders. It’s been a long time in the making though with a huge amount of blood sweat and tears from the guys. They seem to have adapted well from the huge success of their track days and some of that training and discipline seems to have been brought into their road training.
Obviously we all have our favourite riders and teams from around the world but in the true cycling spirit I get behind all the riders. Friends of mine who don’t watch or take part in cycling really don’t understand this but it’s the way the cycling community is. So good luck all!
Back to my tour preparations… what are your plans this tour?
Le Tour will be available to view on terrestrial TV in the UK on ITV4 daily with Ned Boulting, Chris Boardman, Phil Liggett & Paul Sherwen: www.itv.com/Sport/tourdefrance/
Keep an eye out on iTunes for the ITV4 Tour de France Podcast presented by Matt Rendell, Ned Boulting & Chris Boardman and guests.
For more information on Le Tour visit the official website: www.letour.com/
BBC Radio 5Live for audio coverage: www.bbc.co.uk/5live
I will add more online viewing options and other TV stations from around the world when I stumble across them.
You may remember our earlier article by Alex Murphy on the Restless Ride that he and a number of howies staff and friends took on the night of the Spring Equinox Across Wales. Here finally is the film featuring author, cyclist and howies fan; Rob Penn.
The Rest Less Ride took the peloton of 16 riders from the west coast, all the way to the east. They cycled unlit back-roads riddled with pot-holes, gravel and barrier-less hairpin bends. They passed through deep dark valleys, through forests and up mountains, in a race against the sunrise.
The Rest Less Ride celebrates the pleasure of cycling and the friendships it forges.
For the launch of the new partnership between the heavyweights that are Team Sky and Jaguar, Cycling Shorts was very kindly asked by Jaguar to provide questions to put to the Team Sky riders, we only knew in advance that Cav would definitely be there so we supplied an array of questions for him and a hefty selection for each of the other Sky cyclists and management.
On the day it turned out Juan Antonio Flecha and Mark Cavendish would represent the team for interviews, but we had plenty of questions for both of them. Unfortunately our collective technical and hard hitting questions didn’t quite make the cut, which is to be expected at a corporate event they tend to go for mass appeal, but our fluffier questions were used.
Questions by Nancy, Darren, and the two Paul’s (Harris & Sloper).
We would like to take this opportunity to thank Jaguar, Team Sky, Mark & Juan.
Mark Cavendish & Juan Antinio Flecha Jaguar Sportbrake & Team Sky Launch - ©Copyright Jaguar & Team Sky
JAGUAR AND TEAM SKY ANNOUNCE A THREE YEAR PARTNERSHIP
Jaguar Cars announced this a new three-year global partnership with Team Sky Pro Cycling this afternoon, which coincides with the forthcoming launch of the new XF Sportbrake.
The partnership, which was announced in the elegant surroundings of Syon Park, West London, was attended by leading members of Team Sky. They included 2011 Road Cycling World Champion Mark Cavendish, Sky Rider Juan Antonio Flecha, Team Principal Dave Brailsford. Representing Jaguar was Geoff Cousins, Global Director of Sponsorships.
Jaguar cars will provide invaluable support to the team during the races, carrying over £100,000 of cutting-edge cycling equipment on the roof alone. The car also acts as the ‘nerve centre’ of the team on the road from where all vital strategic and split second tactical decisions are made. Jaguar is providing Team Sky with its latest model, the new XF Sportbrake.
With Team Sky competing at the top level of UCI rankings, riding everything from the one-day classics to stage races and the ‘Grand Tours’. The team’s stated objective is not only to inspire a love of cycling but also to produce a winner of the legendary Tour de France by 2014.
Geoff Cousins, Jaguar Global Director of Sponsorships, commented: “We’re delighted to announce a new three year partnership with Team Sky. We know that our involvement in the rapidly growing sport of cycling and our support of Team Sky resonates strongly with new and existing Jaguar customers. Team Sky and Jaguar have similar ambitions and objectives and furthermore, the values of the team fit well with our human performance and Alive themes that sit at the heart of the Jaguar brand. We wish the riders the very best of luck and look forward to celebrating their successes over the coming years”.
Commenting on the announcement, Dave Brailsford, Sky Pro Cycling’s Team Principal said: “We are delighted to continue our partnership with Jaguar. Over the past two years Jaguar has provided the team with fantastic support and we very much look forward to putting the new XF Sportbrake through its paces. I am confident it will play an important role in the team’s success this year by providing a fast, high performance and comfortable race support car. It provides the perfect environment from which to direct race operations when we’re on the road. The fact that it looks stunning too will make it the stand out car behind the peloton”.
Andrew Whyman the Chief Programme Engineer of the Jaguar XF Sportbrake added: “Jaguar is rightly praised for its design-led products, but in creating the XF Sportbrake we were careful to ensure that this was balanced with the engineering integrity required to create an estate car that is as usable as it is enjoyable. The Sportbrake epitomises the Jaguar sporting dynamic with its combination of innovative, seductive design and performance. In the XF Sportbrake this is complemented by a no-compromise approach to practicality and versatility”.
Check out these gorgeous minimal artworks by the Netherlands based designer Vincent Vermeij aka Chungkong. Away from his day job designing brilliant brand identities and advertising for his clients Vincent spends time creating his own artwork, his posters are really eye catching Chungkong strips the subjects down to their bare bones and brings them to life in vibrant and playful designs, covering a variety of subjects from cult movies, books and sports. Prices vary from $17 to $85 depending on the size, format and whether you want your print framed, he also does a great range of accessories and T-shirts.
To View more of Vincent’s range click here to visit his website.
To go to Vincent’s shop and treat yourself to his full set of Tour prints, movie images & T-Shirts click here.
Chungkong is very kindly giving all Cycling Shorts. readers their own copy of his Giro D’Italia Poster for absolutely nothing! You get to download a high resolution PDF for you to print or have printed for your own personal use (not for commercial reproduction). This is for a limited period so act now!
All you have to do is one of the following; if you use the Twitter or Facebook options it gives something back to the artist, Vincent gets some promotion from you downloading, so go on it’s good karma:
Pay with a tweet or Facebook post by using the button or QR code below and it will take you to the download page once the tweet or post has been sent.
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Free Giro D'Italia Poster
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Last weekend the Rest Less Ride took riders across the whole of Wales from beach to border overnight. The roads were riddled with pot-holes, sheets of gravel and barrier-less hairpin bends, dropped into deep dark valleys, through forests and over 25% climbs in a race against the sun on the night the clocks went forwards.
Alex Murphy of howies writes about the nocturnal cycling adventure.
The ride was born out of a story that writer – and friend of howies – Rob Penn, shared from a chance meeting on the road with a passing cyclist, reminiscing over night-long club rides in the late 1950’s; the quieter roads, the lack of traffic, and the peloton pushing one another on through dawn.
The roads back in the 50’s aren’t too dissimilar to the country lanes in Wales, so only one question remained; “When shall we do it?”
On Saturday, 16 riders set off from howies HQ to Abergavenny, all that led the way were small road markings, the faith in the peloton and the promise that no-one would get left behind in the wilderness.
The pack was made up some of Rob’s and our riding friends, who had come from across Britain, to take on this incredible adventure. A last supper gave time to go over the route, fettle bikes and exchange names with the riders who would help carry one another across the entire country in the dark.
Barely 10 minutes into the ride, a disturbed badger darted into the pack, causing a tumble. The sound of bikes hitting the ground and cries in the night halted riders in front. Once turned upright, we re-grouped and pressed on. What other dangers waited for us in the dark?
Winding out of the Teifi valley, the stronger legs set a steady pace along the undulating road to Lampeter. The hills began to get steeper, breathing deepened and gears simultaneously jumped in the dark to bigger cogs.
The descents made up for the climbs and soon everyone seemed settled, taking to the 40mph bends, down over humpback bridges, free wheeling to allow the legs to rest for the next inevitable climb.
At Lampeter we left the safety of the A roads and towns, heading into the wilderness. The quiet back roads were brown and green down the middle, with fractures to test skinny tyres and fords to test nerves; a surface barely ideal in daylight, let alone in the dark.
These country lanes were bound for the lake at Llyn Briane, up winding valley passes and through pitch-black, potholed hairpins. Chatter in the pack slowed as concentration increased to keep wheels in line over the rough surfaces and spotting markers to keep on course – we had not seen a house or car for miles and rumbling over cattle grids. There would be nowhere to go if you gave up here.
News of the coming halfway stop for hot soup refreshed tired minds. Eager stomachs wound up the pace and soon everyone was huddled around a 2-ring gas burner awaiting some real food. Passing round bread and stretching, we noticed the time, 3am. With darkness all around, we were halfway from nowhere and nowhere near somewhere with an handful of hours ’til dawn. The race against the sun had begun.
The climb past the lake, invisible in the dark, led to fantastically smooth tarmac lining the valley as it wound through the hills and over barrier-less summits with steep drops into the dark.
Approaching the pine forest, a broken chain tore apart Alex’s derailleur, demanding some roadside repairs. Stopped in the silence, it was obvious the damage was irreparable. Cut down to a single speed, the best attempt to limp on, wasn’t going to get the bike over the 25% climb of the Devil’s Staircase and certainly not onto Abergavenny. It was game over for Alex.
The Devil’s Staircase is famed for it’s 25% walls levelling out briefly before the next step upwards. The set of short, sharp climbs marked the midway point through the wilderness. A series of sketchy but exhilarating hairpin descents to the valley floor followed. Mist collected between the hills as the road bounced along, mimicking the bed of the river until finally a junction and another short rest.
Signposts pointed through a dark forest to Builth, where the pack regrouped. The dawn chorus had begun, and the promise of daylight was in the air. The quiet A-roads were smooth and wide, with street lighting easing the dependence of lights which would surely be near the end of their battery life. These roads gave the pack their best chance yet to work together, forming a train of tired legs each taking turns out front to break the cold air.
Crossing the river, heading for Hay-on-Wye, the B-roads were foggy and felt chilly without the climbs to keep the body warm. Staying together for company and warmth, the pack pressed on in the mist.
Leaving Hay behind, daylight finally broke over the hills of the Black Mountains where the final – and hardest – climb of the ride came into view.
Every rider stopped to shed weight, jettisoning surplus layers and water bottles. Feeling sore and empty, the beauty of the scenery laid out in the early morning sun was enough to make the riders forget their tired legs. The end would soon be in sight, with a 15 mile whooping descent though the Llanthony Valley to breakfast. And it would be the best breakfast ever, in soft chairs with hot food.
The ride forged friendship through adversity; sharing the experience of digging deep when you’ve got nothing left, feeling sick, delirious and weary but pushing yourself and fellow riders further than you could possible ride on your own.
Despite the grueling climbs and rapid descents over tarmac laced with gravel and pot holes, 14 of the 16 riders completed the challenge – 124 miles, over 3000 meters of ascent with only one final question remaining; “When shall we do it again?”
A short video of the ride will soon be up on the howies Website.