Friday, 23 March 2012

I Love The Internet

How's this for multi-tasking?
That's Sporza's coverage of E3 Prijs Harelbeke on the laptop to the left, and Eurosport's coverage of the Volta a Catalunya coming through XboxLive on the right, and my ironing in the foreground. What did we do before the internet? Well, quicker ironing for one thing.

Still, I've seen Boonen attack on the Taaienberg, Cancellara crash and Gilbert fall off the back. There's probably stuff happening in Catalunya too, but I can't tell, as I've chosen to listen to Sporza's Flemish commentary despite not understanding a word of it, which tells you all you need to know about Dave Harmon's Eurosport witterings.

As they say in Belgium, "Eh pembernijt eker glare von aller Boonen my noaky? Karel?"

Wednesday, 21 March 2012


Poor old Eurosport, they drive all their broadcast trucks up to the mountaintop finish only for the snow to truncate the race and wipe out the broadcast. Poor old me too, as I had an hour long cycling-shaped hole in my afternoon, which I filled by googling bike related goodies including CyclingBuddy.

The scheme has been little more than a Facebook page for months, but CyclingBuddy itself has finally gone live. Sign up in the next couple of days and you'll still be early enough to buy 'Founding Member' merchandise. Don't get me wrong, the CTC are friendly, welcoming and offer plenty of varied routes, but there are times when I'm riding to a ride, when I'm taking my road bike off road, when I'm hanging off the back of a fifty miler or itching to leap of the front of a beginner's cake run, that I wish I could just roll out of my front door and get onto the wheel of someone who wants to do the same ride as me.

That's what CyclingBuddy seems to promise. You can tell it your objectives, your level of fitness and experience, and your location, and it will find similar riders in your area. It's like internet dating, except sweatier, less awkward and with a greatly diminished chance of your dismembered body being found in the fridge of some social inadequate with a twin subscription to Hustler and Soldier of Fortune. (Just watch, that last sentence will send my google traffic through the roof.)

Watch this space, we'll see how it goes.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Paris-Nice 2012: Thoughts so far...

I'm having the same problem I had during the Vuelta last year. My heart wants Bradley Wiggins to win, my head reminds me that he's been fourth in the Tour, third in the Vuelta, first in the Dauphine Libere and that he's ridden commandingly on just about every mountain short of the soul-sapping 24% gradients of the Angliru. But then there's my guts, which have that craven British trick of honouring a plucky tryer rather than dreaming big.

The general feeling is that unless Van Garderen has an amazing day tomorrow, Paris-Nice will shake out it's GC on Mende and the Col d'Eze, and that the major players will be Wiggins, Leipheimer and Valverde. No one's too worried about Leipheimer: head to head, Wiggins has the beating of him in the time trial and probably on the open slopes as well. Valverde, on the other hand, has me bothered.

I know, I know, he's basically an uphill sprinter of the type that picks up Ardennes wins. More importantly, he's  coming off the back of a two year lay off brought about by giving blood transfusions to his dog. I should have more confidence in Wiggins. Yes, Mende and Col d'Eze are sharp hills of the sort that Valverde likes, but it isn't that simple. Mende may be shorter than a mountain, but it's a hell of a lot longer than the Willunga or the climb up to Lac de Vassiviere where Valverde's fired off his late K hill sprints this season. If he dashes off in the last K, he won't take much time. If he attacks early on the cruel lower slopes he'll need to survive for an awful long time once the gradient settles down onto the longer, shallower grind of the sort that Wiggins time trialling diesel power allows him to tackle strongly.

That same logic applies to the Time Trial up the gentler slope of Col d'Eze-with only three of it's nine K breaking the 7% mark, and the bulk of it wavering between 3 and 5%, it's not the sort of climb that will worry Wiggins. It may be a mountain time trial, but the emphasis is definitely on time trial.

So why am I nervous? I suppose because Mende, or the Montee Jalabert as they call it these days, is meaner than you'd think. Remember Andy Schleck climbing it 2010? His eyes went wild, his jaw went slack, and he drooled like a baby. He's known as a Mende-hater, but he's still one of the best climbers in the world. The Montee Jalabert can give riders a nasty surprise. I hope it doesn't shock Wiggo.

I was going to illustrate my fears with footage of Schleck's suffering, but no one wants to see an irritating Luxembourger dribbling and enfeebled, so I'm signing off my Mende worries with a happy memory and the greatest tune ever to come out of a stylophone and wah wah guitar: