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

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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.

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.

Fool me one time…

I must be a sucker. There is no other word for it, I guess. I believe people and believe in them. Though years of being a cycling fan made me a cynic, I still belive people. Even cyclists.

When everyone said that Jan Ullrich must be doping – I didn’t belive them. Even though many of his performances were out of this world. Though never convicted of doping, the Puerto Affair made it quite clear that Ullrich is not just fond of doughnuts and other pastry, but also of blood-doping.

When Landis got caught, I knew it made perfect sense. After all, his heroic recovery and solo attack were out of this world. But his constant defence and reluctance to accept the charge made me think he was innocent somehow. I mean, this defence ruined him financially. Yes, I believed him.

After he came clean about his cheating ways I find myself torn; on the one had I feel I have to believe him, while on the other I believe Lance Armstrong.

Now my favourite rider – Fabian Cancellara, aka Spartacus,  is involved in insinuations about a new kind of doping. Mechanical doping.

Of all things that form the alleged accusation, then one which stands out in my eyes is at 1:56. Spartacus and former world-champ Tom Boonen are at the top of a gruelling climb. Spartacus is distancing Boonen while sitting on his bike, whilst Boonen is in visible pain trying to kick the bike over the hill and keep up. It looks, much like Landis’ miracle attack – out of this world. Again.

Cancellara winning the tour of Flanders

On the podium after beating Boonen

Did Cancellara change bikes during the race? Yes he did. Is it normal? Yes it is. Do I believe him when he says this is all rubbish? Yes I do. Would I be ashamed for being fooled for the n-th time within a year or two? I hope not.

LandisGate

Do you smell a rat?

So Floyd Landis spat in the soup. After years of denying any wrongdoing and fighting to prove his innocence, throwing all the money he had, and a million of his fans’ money into the fight, he’s decided to come clean and take as many of his rivals as he can down with him. And though being a Mennonite, Landis showed no respect for the bible and lied time after time in his trial, protesting his innocence.

Everybody now is looking to see if there is any truth in the allegations against Lance Armstrong, even the federal authorities in the US

Now, of course Floyd Landis has zero credibility. And of course it is possible he not lying this time. And of course Armstrong is denying.

So, jail for the Texan?

The great absurd is that whether Lance Armstrong actually doped or not… it is better for cycling that he is found innocent rather than guilty.

Should Lance be found guilty – the whole of cycling would suffer. Armstrong brings a lot of glamour and money into the sport. If he is found guilty it would deter big American sponsors. In the past few years the American contingent to cycling has grown from a lone Motorolla->Us-Postal->Discovery team to four: RadioShack (Armstrong’s current team), Columbia-HTC, Garmin Transitions and BMC.

Almost all Americans are now familiar with cycling. Much of this is thanks to the Texan. When he went to compete in the Tour Down Under in 2009, the media frenzy was unprecedented. He is not the messiah, but he may be a very naughty boy.

Armstrong’s guilt would not impact the fight against doping in cycling. Cycling already does ten-fold more than any other sport. Including almost infringing on rider’s basic human-rights. No other sports-person has to declare three months in advance where he is. Cycling has introduced the biological-passport which again goes way beyond what any other sport was even willing to consider.

Should Armstrong be found innocent, though guilty, it would be a shame that who potentially would be the greatest doper of all times walks free. Should he be found guilty it could be a huge blow to a sport that is just now starting to regain credibility. Not least amongst its fans.

A side effect of a guilty Armstrong would be a hit on the fight against cancer. Where Armstrong could be considered by many no less than a saint through his LA Foundation/LiveStrong charity.

So, is he guilty?

Personally? I believe he is innocent. But I have also to acknowledge that he could be guilty. I hope is found innocent, firstly because he is innocent, but also because I love cycling.

On a side note

MJ on Armstrong’s cap stands for Mellow Johnny which is Armstrong’s brand. It comes from mispronunciation of maillot jaune – yellow jersey. His coffee shop – Juan Pellota is… uniballer.