Monday, 28 February 2011

Barrow Gurney CC

I’m up in Bristol to carry out my first team duty for Rapha Condor Sharp; picking up Casey Munro,(one of the three Australian riders on the team) who is arriving back from overwintering in the  South.  They have made Bristol their summer residency, along of course with Tom S. I also hear Dan Craven, the Namibian on the team, is in the process of moving to the City. The City also boasts Simon Richardson of Sigma Sport and Ollie Beckinsdale of Endura. All these pro riders make up the elite membership of the Barrow Gurney CC. A club I’m hoping to be made an honorary member of as between races I’ll be spending quite a lot of time in the city myself this year.
Most of the riders actually train on their own, Dean Windsor being the exception; he enjoys the local chain gangs. The others all slip out, usually in ones but occasionally twos, into the Mendips or across the bridge into mid-Wales to while away their hours on the saddle. I was astounded though to discover that last year Casey peddled the streets of Montpellier and
City Road
where he had discovered a number of short sharp climbs that he used for his training. It was peculiar to be taken around and shown your home city by him, especially some of the pubs that he had passed by and now insisted on visiting. It seems he just loves exploring. He knew my home city better than I did. The Barrow Gurney CC rides are mostly completed in a selection of cafes, many in Clifton, where on sunny days the riders bask outside, or at the Lido a beautifully restored Victorian lido with bar, restaurant and spa facilities I can personally recommend. Where I presume, they sit having coffees whilst watching the attractive ladies in the pool.
Some of the team have been starting the new season at the Tour of South Africa and have kicked off the campaign with two wins. On stage one, Kristan House went for a long one in a two man break, dropping his companion with 50km to go, soloing in to win by a margin of 2.22 minutes over the rest of the field. With Dan Craven also taking the mountains jersey it was good day all round. A great start, getting that first win straight under the belt is a boost to any teams moral.
Rapha Condor Sharp now had the golden jersey to protect, so tactics changed, as they now had to switch from attack to defence mode. I scrolled down the start list: there were some good teams in the race and numerous South African riders - who all wanted to do well.
How did the team do?
Well, is the answer.  I kept track of it all by (I am embarrassed to admit) following twitter and later the Cyclingnews results service. Each day I felt a little tightening of the stomach as I waited for news. The team did its job: controlling the race and daily delivering Kristan in the front group by the finish line.
I noted that Jon Tiernan-Locke (another Barrow Gurney CC member, known as JT, or JT2 between Tom and myself as I also have a friend called JT) rode well, ending up 8th overall and second in the Mountains competition, after Dan C having unfortunately crashed and lost ground. By the end of the race Kristan had only lost a handful of seconds so Rapha Condor Sharp won the overall. They can be pleased with their southern outing and I hope this promises well for the rest of the season.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Cycling is part of my life.

SSE with thick mizzly mist today, winter in Cornwall. As the mist lifts the colours of the seascape are magnificent but so are the sounds of the sea and the freshness in the air. I lie in bed at night just listening to its rolling thunder. In Big Sur Jack Karouac tired to write the sounds of the ocean, I never thought he did it justice. He was listening to the Pacific, a very different place to the stormy Atlantic. The sound of our beach doesn’t resemble Penzance’s a few miles down the coast where the shush of the shingle gives it a respiratory lisp: Ours is a mile of sand and just pounds away.   

The two big passions of my life are cycling and ornithology. Cycling came into my life via my elder brother, ornithology via my father.

My bother pointed out in 1962 that an English cyclist called Tommy Simpson had come 6th in the Tour de France and worn the coveted yellow jersey. For reasons I can not fathom I was hooked from that moment onwards. We all rode bikes and we raced around but I never joined a club or ever rode an official race. I won two very unofficial races in my entire career but many thousands of virtual races in my head, mostly highly prestigious European ones.

In those days it was hard to follow the European professional racing as with virtually no GB riders in Europe there was no media coverage. However I discovered that Georges Bookshop on the top of Park Row in Bristol sold foreign magazines and intermittently one called Mirroir du Cyclism appeared on the rack. It was all in French but full of wonderful black and white photos of the great men. I stared at the pictures, cut them out and stuck them on my wall and finally learnt to read French, something which in years of school I failed otherwise to accomplish. I think it had something to do with motivation, an attribute few French teachers especially Colonel Shallow managed to achieve in me. He slept most of the time whilst we quietly watched not daring to wake him. Then came Cyclingweekly which I bought for years keeping track of the smalltime English professional scene and finally some races made it to TV. As I didn’t have one I had to spend time lurking outside TV shops on various High Streets so I could watch the five or ten minutes of silent races.

Simpson’s Cycling is My Life was my bible. Family summer camping holidays in France became odysseys to bike shops in search of a fabled woolen Peugeot BP jersey. I eventually discovered a jersey, alas a year after Simpson died on Mount Ventoux. I bought it and my parents could relax. My prized possession, I wore it so proudly on English roads on my yellow Claud Butler.

When my son, named Tom, (the name was chosen by my partner,) showed an interest in cycling I was very keen to help. I supported him and delighted as he rose through the ranks to a European professional, riding along side some of the biggest names of the day in the very races I had won when a schoolboy dreaming in black and white.

But then disappointment set in as I learnt a different story to the one I had imagined for so long.  The glamour appeared to be just a chimera, the inner soul rotten to the core; many of those greats had feet of clay. I stopped watching or taking much of an interest. I stopped watching the Tour as, to my mind, the biggest fraudster of the lot won it numerous times. I spent my energies supporting the sport at grass root level as I couldn’t walk away from it. My son who had dropped out of the pro peleton came back in at a less contentious level under a manager who treated his riders with respect. I became interested again. I enjoyed the racing again. I know that there is a problem but I just accept that now, it’s one that runs deeply through all professional sport. I don’t condone it, I just shrug and get on with it, accepting the murkier side as part and parcel of the human condition.

 I’ve now been retired a couple of years and having exorcized teaching from my system was wondering what else I could do. And what happens? The job as assistant manager at a pro bike team comes my way, starting at the Tour of Taiwan in mid March and running all season. I love cycling as a sport, always have done, I’ve put a lot of time and effort into it but hadn’t expected this to happen. Now I’m to be an integral part of it all. I can’t wait. I’ve been watching from the road side since 1962 now in 2011, I’m on the road.

Five a week

It’s blowing in from the S, blustery and wet. I’m now reading Das Boot- talk about wallowing, deep, deep down in the belly of a whale, the craziness of it all. I never get past the question, why do we (the species) do it? Wasting our lives for maladjusted humans.

Pulchritudinous, what a word, I love the English language. I came across this on Facebook of all places; yes this dinosaur does have access to world wide phenomena, although I was alarmed when informed of its electrical consumption. I collect new words, writing them down and looking them up just as my Dad taught me to, so, so many years ago, in a small red note book he gave me. Five a week with their meanings. I just love it. Trouble is when can I ever use some of these words in my daily life? I don’t, only when I’m writing. When I was at school this lad in my class just looked up words in the dictionary, learnt and used them. His conversation always appeared odd to say the least as it was peppered with his weekly crop. I preferred to allow the words to find me, hidden away in some text somewhere.

I also use Spotify. We dumped our TV two years ago, simply turned it off for a year and then couldn’t work out how to use the remote again, so took it off to the dump, good riddance. Instead we listen to music in the evenings. My brother gave me a wonderful birthday/Christmas present, a subscription to a magazine called Songlines. Just the title interested me as I love the concept of songlines, no maps, just a song in your head, what brilliance and the settlers thought the aboriginals ignorant. I would love to sing my way across the landscape of Britain. This magazine is about world music, I read, search and listen.

From this month’s issue I am listening to and enjoying Iness Mezel, written up as the Berber rocker, Abigail Washburn, singer and banjo player, Joan Sorino from the Dominican Republic and Aurelio Martinez with Afro/Cuban/ Caribbean rhythmic music and finally the great man himself, Woodie Guthrie.

The beginning

There’s a NW blowing, rain falling and I’m stuck wondering what to do. I don’t feel like reading. I’m stuck in three novels, Carpenter’s Hard Rain Falling, Ellroy’s The Cold Six Thousand and Irvine Welsh’s Porno but I’ve ground to a halt. They are good. I like their writing styles. But, they are all dealing with the under belly of western human society and quite frankly I’m fed up with it. I know it exists. I’m aware that we all have this dark side that lurks within us but to be honest I’m not interested anymore. At the precise moment I don’t wish to submerge myself in its depths observing people who for some reason are wallowing in it. I’d rather follow a positive trail.

So, almost reluctantly, I’ve decided to write a blog. Why the reluctance? Well, I grew up writing with a pen on paper. I still see computers and the net as an alien world which I don’t understand or really wish to, I’m a classic techno dinosaur-slowly, very slowly, evolving.

More than that, I do wonder about modern communications, I caught a train to London a while back and everyone bar me was holding a conversation. Great, I thought, until walking through the carriage I realized no one was talking to anyone nearby, everyone was talking into mobile phones. Don’t they have relationships with humans? An evening later two young couples came into a restaurant I was in, sat down at the table next to me and promptly sat in silence scanning their mobiles and texting, the couple at the other side were doing the same, err hello.

I explained this to my long term partner, now wife, I’m really not used to calling her that or really wish to, we’re partners. Her answer: join in, write a blog. What!!! Who would read it and why?  Her answer: just do it, stop being so defensive and reluctant. You enjoy writing, you have interesting things to say, people will be interested. People will read it. Me, I remain to be convinced.

So I will come in from the cold, actually it’s more temperate than that, I posess a mobile and I do text a bit. I won’t twitter, that profoundly superficial name is enough to put me off. Neither will I have one of those electronic diaries that I read about recently that records everything. When would you read it? It would be like constructing a labyrinth, or partaking in fantasy virtual worlds, or in 2050 have  my personality downloaded into a machine where I can continue to live long after my demise, (until the cleaner switches it off to plug the Hoover in.)  I often wonder if these things have already happened, I’ve always had this sneaky feeling about reality.

So what do I say? I was born 1951, in Bristol, UK, after thirty three years living with my partner, now married, (we needed time just to make sure,) two kids, live in West Cornwall, retired science teacher. Hobbies, cycling, ornithology, pilates, wandering around on foot, trespassing, continuous fascination with life, conversing - preferably  with a real human, whose face and body I can see. I have already written an autobiography, some 255,000 words of it. A size that has my son in fits of laughter. Chapter 4 about my farming and hippy days in North Somerset and Bristol in the 70s is a mere 80,000 words. It does include a prĂ©cis of five novels, two books of poems and a outline of a quasi religion I dreamt up at the time, which, if the truth be known, I’m still rather partial to. For some reason I don’t think it could fit in here. I looked on the internet the other day, I looked up writing autobiographies. They basically stated that it should be one page, with six paragraphs. If you can fit your whole life into that you either haven’t done very much or you are an incredibly good writer.