Mirror Mirror on the

Have been contemplating getting a mirror for my bike. Increased safety and all.

As a cyclist you are always slower than cars. Well, excluding downhills and traffic jams. So the ability to see what and who is behind you makes sense. So that is my answer to the question “if you had a third eye, where’d you put it?”

I’ve always put this off, though. Somehow this didn’t get prioritized. But now I am even more safety-aware.

I wanted to buy a mirror that goes into the hole in the handle bar. But the biggest issue with that was that it is out of stock everywhere.

A few years back, a friend recommended a mirror that goes on the helmet. So I ended up buying this, thinking it makes sense because it would almost be inline with my view anyway.

How wrong was I!

My rucksack is blocking my view back, along with my shoulder. Damn those years in the pool – who needs such broad shoulders, causing more wind-resistance, extra weight and now blocking the view.

Solution is to point the mirror outwards and upwards.
Result?
1. Improved visibility of what’s behind, albeit a little to the side of what I’d ideally want
2. Serious eye strain

So, is it worth it? I think so. Though I may still add the mirror I wanted.

The ideal bike rear-view mirror 

The ideal bike rear-view mirror

Advertisements

Peloton of commuters

Five days into my new London job. As I expected – I cycle every day. Living and cycling to work is different in London to what it is in Wales. Oddly, London is pretty nice.

In Wales you cycle pretty much on your own, whereas here in the big smoke you ride in ad-hoc pelotons. Pelotons that may live for anything from few seconds to, ah, few more seconds. They form and disband in blink of an eye. Though you still get the benefit of a peloton’s visibility.

It seems that drivers here are very aware of cyclist. And though there’s a lot of traffic, people are looking for you, showing much more respect than expected.

Forty minutes is my average commute time. To work, as it is downhill and I don’t want to sweat it is a bit quicker. On the way home, on the other hand, I go all out, but the climb to Muswell Hill – is a decent climb. My legs judge it at at-least 10%.

Oh, and I cycle past this

Gooners live here

Gooners live here

A sporting week

Finally, a leader?

Liverpool won 4-1 in the first game of the group stage in the Europa league. No, they didn’t put 4 past one of the great European sides. It was a Romanian team. But Liverpool had mostly their #2 team on the pitch against Steaua Bucharest.

I’ve complained that Rafa Benitez may be a good manager but he is not a leader. On Thursday we’ve seen a very motivate team. A team of players who are neither afraid to play and attack, and want to prove their worth.

After all, this is the b-team. Those who aspire to join the a-team. Yes, Joe Cole is not a b-team player… and neither are Agger and Reina, but even Joe Cole was motivated to a point I was afraid his skin is going to split from the effort he’s put in. N’Gog is top scorer, Lucas looks (relatively) good, some young and virtually unknown players played 90 minutes, and impressed! Where were they all this time?! Apparently at home ’cause Rafa didn’t call them to duty.

Technology is missing from football. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy Liverpool were awarded a penalty, but they didn’t deserve it.

I don’t know if Roy Hodgson is the man for the job, but I know he will do a better job than Rafa. Simply because he’ll have the team play for him, when he needs them to. Had Rafa still been in charge I am certain the a-team would’ve won 1-0, and the crowd would’ve had a good night’s sleep meanwhile.

Instead we had a good, positive, game. More please, Roy!

Vuelta, now? Really?

The Vuelta never took my breath away. It never managed to get me to watch, to follow, to care.

Maybe it is the care-free attitude which the Spanish have shown towards doping. Maybe it is the long stages on a motorway from somewhere to nowhere, not spectator in sight.

Maybe I am just drained after the Tour and the Giro?!

I don’t know. My friends assure me it is a great race, but I can’t even name the leader off the top of my head!

Look at all the recent winners

  • Contador: Exciting and fresh. But he’ll visit the Vuelta again sometime in the future.
  • Menchov: So exciting I could fall asleep just thinking about it. Not forgetting the one time he won because he was second to Herras (who was doped to the ears and got disqualified)
  • Valverde: Won the Vuelta while everyone knew that he was banned from riding in Italy due to his involvement in the Puerto affair, and that the ban will be upheld by the UCI and would eventually apply to the whole world. Not that it mattered to the Vuelta organizers…

Spanish races are on the decline for a long while now. Quite a few, allegedly key, races couldn’t find the funding and have disappeared from the calendar. I am a cyclist, and a cycling fan, but I’d be the first to say that a race has to be exciting to non-cyclist and only then it has a right to live. Put the tour of California instead of the Vuelta, please. Give me a 3 week cross USA tour. Or take the Vuelta through the roads and towns my friends tell me that Spain has, but never appear on the screen during the Vuelta.

The apples fell quite close

Last Sunday we went on a 2Km run.

When I say we, I mean my two eldest boys and myself, aka #1 and #2. It was part of the Cardiff 10k run, and my eldest son has been talking about doing it, ever since I’ve done the Cardiff 10k and he saw kids participate in the 2km run.

And when I say 2km I really mean 1.4k. Unfortunately they’ve shortened the course to 1.4km due to some constraints.

It has not made much difference, though. The atmosphere was great, as always in such events. And this being a family event, made it even better. My eldest was actually training for this. Running around the square in front of our house in the past weeks.

But somehow, I am still not sure why, #2 said he’d run with us just the night before.

So, there I was on the starting line, with 9 and 7 year old boys. Going for a run.

10 minutes later it was over. ‘Pipsqueek’ to quote #1.

And this what makes me wonder…. “pipsqueek”? Is this a sign that he has better genes than I? Is this a sign I have been living far too long in the UK, as “pipsqueek” actually made sense to me?

This run also gave me another opportunity to evaluate how my kids run, style wise of course. And I am glad to report that #2’s running style has remained as erratic as before. One might argue that it is even more.

As we set off his arms and legs were going in all directions. At one point I was afraid he’s going to knock another child out. As he got a bit more tired he became a bit more streamlined, but just a bit. And during the sprint to the line, a matter of about 200m, he managed to kick himself in the backside quite a few times.

I remember myself and my brother running at the age of 7. It was always very efficient. Slow, but efficient. And #1 is just like that. But #2… he is out of this world. He changes direction for no good reason. Just suddenly goes sideways. I reckon he added at least two or maybe even three miles to the distance of the run.

I was a homing pigeon in my previous life

So I’ve volunteered to join my colleagues for a charity run. It wasn’t the first time. 10 legs, with a total of 56 miles from Bristol in the direction of Basingstoke. Taking in the best of what Wiltshire has to offer. This is a charity run our client organizes, and had teams from their company, and a single team from ours.

Due to the day of run falling on the Jewish new-year’s eve, I’ve said that I’d run and head straight home. There’s cooking to finish, and kids to wash.

Three of us, the “fit” ones put our bodies on the line to do a double leg. Making it 10miles rather than 5. After all, all three of us – Albino Rob, 8 minute Bruce and myself are seasoned half marathon runners. Bruce being a full marathon-man.

Rob replenishing

Cardiff half marathon is drawing closer, so obviously we are all fit as a fiddle?!

Usually I run a good 15-20 miles a week. Only the summer heat drained me and I’ve resorted to a ‘what could possibly go wrong’ attitude. To make things better, I contracted a serious case of man-flu just the night before the race.

What could possibly go wrong?

I woke up, on time at 5:30 am. Oh, the great humanity! The second clue came when everyone started asking how I feel given the fact that both my legs are the hardest ones. Seriously more. Denial worked for me. I was surprised, as I clearly remember that we’ve agreed to stitch Rob (again) with the massive hills. I guess it backfired.

Rob went first, at 8:00 before dawn. Tackling the Bristol rush hour and hitting the Wiltshire country side at good pace. I was second to go.

Ready to start

Ready to start

My running started quite deceptively – on a flat section. I think it was at least 50 feet long. then things started to go wrong. The next three miles were a moderate up hill. Three miles where I spent most of the time trying not to run cars over. At the top of the hill I was feeling thirsty, tired and hot. Shall I say what BBC weather promised? I’ll just say they were wrong.

Surprisingly, the support team handing out drinks in silly plastic cups that spill on the road rather than into your mouth, said that I look fresh. Well, I bet I know what he had for breakfast.

The next 7 miles served me with two massive steep hills, with the easier one being only 16%. Walking up was faster.

As I tackled the last hill, I sprinted up it. Or as others might call it – I walked.

Here a twist is added to the plot. The whole route was sign-posted. With a person removing the signs after the last runner.

After the hill I realised I have not seen a single sign in over a mile. I pushed, slowly, on. Another half mile gone without a sign. Here I called the guys and said I thought I was lost. What a mistake! I am still getting stick at work for thinking I am lost on a straight. Apparently the sign-guy removed all the ‘straight-on’ signs as he saw me ‘sprint’ up the hill.

At the end, I finished at a very slow time of 1:56. Yes, a 10 miler slower than almost all my half marathons.

So, time to go home? Na. My friends had me shuttle them for the next 2 hours between start/end of legs.

So, time to go home? Kind-of. I’ve left the guys who we waiting deep in Wiltshire.

An hour later, as I was nearing Bristol and the M5, getting the smell of the Severn estuary I got a call. One of the guys put his bag and car keys in my car. I had to go back. Without a GPS or a clear memory of the name of the place.

Luckily I was a homing pigeon in my previous life.

So, time to go home? Yes!!! Four thirty I was home. Just the time we were supposed to leave the house.

So how is the new year so far? Stiff, mostly around my legs.

Arriving at the finish

Arriving, looking deceptively fresh

Use your head

My mum always told me to use my head. Mark Renshaw’s mum probably too. So he did.

What did the race commissioners do? Send him home.

What do two riders breaking in a fight get?

Nothing.

What a shambles.

I don’t claim that Renshaw is innocent. He should be punished. But this is way over the top. This should be the equivalent of a yellow card in football. Only they took out a double red one.

Robbie uses his head

Mind if I rest my head?

When Robbie McEwen used his head a few years back (when he could still sprint) – did he get thrown out? No – he got relegated to last place for the day. What happened to fining the rider/team? Can’t they warn them that next time the rider, or even the whole team would be thrown out? I feel a sense of hysteria led to this decision.

Mark Renshaw at least has a clean record. Whereas the demi-sprinting-god Robbie has somewhat of a record here.

What a shambles.

Do we want 2 year-old girl sprinting with everyone getting the same time so that no one feels bad? Sprinting is not for the faint-hearted. What next, nullifying stages because someone has fallen and it is cold? oh, wait!

Congratulates to Mark Cavendish for another great win.

What a shambles

Vive le Tour

World cup is over. Tour de France is half way over. And boy am I exhausted. Happy, but exhausted.

Why?

The tour is getting more and more exciting.

It started amazing and for me it keeps getting better. The cobble stones of Belgium and north France proved selective as expected. Lance losing a minute. Franck Schleck losing the race.

Then a few stages for the sprinters, with Cavendish’s demise and comeback within 24 hours.

Then the mountains. Every year they prove selective, and this year they claimed all but the two top favourites by the second big stage. First great mountain stage proved to be the real curtain on Lance Armstrong’s tour career. The second claimed the rest.

And if it is not hard enough to be cycling up and down mountains, long stages and all, mother nature comes and turns the oven on. It is very hard to cycle when it is over 25 degrees centigrade. It is harder over 30. Today it hit 41. It is a temperature too hot to go to the beach.

First, Lance

His comeback is a success. Period. He came from four years’ rest to finish on the podium. This year he shows great fitness, but even greater bad luck. A giant like him must, in my opinion, continue as long as he has the passion. Forget about “quitting while you’re ahead”. If you’re ahead, why quit?! If you’re still enjoying it – keep on.

Second, Cadel Evans

Cuddles is known for his bad luck. If bad luck had a currency, he’d be the Bank of Bad Luck. I hoped that his win of the Rainbow Jersey would negate his normal bad luck, double jinx call it if you wish.

Though this year was very good for him, Cuddles proved you can’t escape your (bad) luck. A Crash on stage 9 fractured his elbow. It is hard to cycle on a flat with a fractured elbow. It is even harder up a monster of a mountain that Col du Madeleine is. It is even harder when you are wearing the yellow jersey and everyone wants to attack you.

Cuddles cracked. A crack he will not be able to mend. The tour is over for him. You can’t help but feel sorry for a guy who can cry when putting the shirt on, even more than when taking it off.

Wouldn’t you?! Take a look at the profile of this ‘hill’

Profile of Col Du Madelein. What a beast

'tis a hill I tell ya!

And this brings me to the only contenders left. Andy Schleck and Contador aka il-pistolero!

Contador and A.Schleck at podium of 09 tour

2009 tour podium. From left: A. Schleck, A Contador, L Armstrong.

The climb to the Madeleine showed how much of a class apart these two are from the others, with regards to climbing. Contador, though being 40 secs behind is still favourite. As he can also time-trial. And this brings me to the key point of this tour.

No supermen, almost

No one appears to be a superman. If the last 10-15 years taught us anything in cycling, is that supermen are likely to be dopers. A point many use against Lance Armstrong, and his sometimes super-human performances.

This tour has not such super-humans. Well, maybe two.

Superman#1 Il Pistolero –  Contador. Schleck is a pure climber and is expected to lose the equivalent of years in the last time-trial. Contador, though being an amazing climber can also time-trial. Two very different disciplines. He is in a class of his own, when it comes to a grand-tour.

Superman #2 Jens Voigt – the German rider can suffer like no other. He will never win the tour. He’d be lucky to win a stage. But if you look for a rider to die for his team – Jens is your man. If you’re looking for someone to go beyond his abilities to pull his team-leader – Jens is your man. Jens is the people’s superman. You know you can’t be Lance, or Andy or Contador. But you wish you could be Jens.

Here is a video of Jens trying to die. Literally. A horrible crash that could’ve killed anyone, except this amazing German:

Can Contador be really so fast?!

Can he suddenly be faster than, say, a super time-trialis, Olympic champion, like Fabian Cancellara? Well, in a grand tour yes. Out of a context of a grand tour it is all about your ability to crush those pedals for an hour. In a grand tour you have to take into account all the previous days of cycling and the accumulated fatigue.

One of the things that make Contador such a great grand tour rider is his recovery. The very thing that abandons older riders, like Lance Armstrong. Contador can recover like no other. Maybe Andy Schleck can recover well as-well. But his ability to crush those pedals on the flat is lacking, on a good day.

So, is the tour over and we can go home now?

Well, not quite. We are just half way through and anything can happen. Contador can fall and be forced to leave. Andy can show that he actually learned to time-trial. His brother, Frank, proved this year he can seriously improve.

Half way through, and everything to play for. And I haven’t mentioned anything about the last step of the podium.