UK Blog Awards

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After four years of writing my blog and seeing a steady, if not dramatic, increase in readers I have decided to enter the website to the UK Blog Awards. I am hopeful that this will increase my exposure and take my ramblings to the next level.

The public vote is now open and I would really appreciate the support of anyone who has enjoyed my writings over the years and can find the time to view my entry by following the link below.

Cheers,

James Rannoch.

UK Blog Awards Entry

 

Tour de Past, Stage 11. 2010, Renshaw loses his head.

 

One of the most dangerous parts of pro cycling are the mass sprints. To be successful in these tightly packed, high speed situations the riders need plenty of bottle. Skill and aggression are also necessary and in 2010s stage 11 these two attributes were used by HTC-Columbia to win the stage.

The teams biggest rival were Garmin-Transitions and the friction between the two was the closest you would get to a football club style rivalry in cycling. They were both American teams and they loved beating each other and as they had two of the top sprinters of the time, Tyler Farrar of Garmin and Mark Cavendish of HTC, the flat stage 11 meant the teams would again come head to head, literally.

Coming into the final 600 meters Cavendish and his lead out man Mark Renshaw were on the left of the road close to the barriers. Just to their right was Julian Dean leading out Tyler Farrar. Dean seemed to be veering left which meant the HTC men might get boxed in. Renshaw decided to put an end to it by headbutting Dean on the shoulder. The first two times didn’t do the trick but the third one certainly did. Dean was moved to the right and a huge space opened up for Cavendish and he did a long sprint for the win as he was charging off Renshaw swung back to the left almost pushing Farrar into the barriers, in effect taking care of both of the Garmin men.

Cavendish saw Renshaws actions as great team work but the commissaries disagreed and disqualified Renshaw from the race.

Giro 100. The Giro Start in Sardinia.

Later on today the 100th running of the Giro d’Italia will start in Alghero on the island of Sardinia. As this is the centenary edition the race director Mauro Vegni wanted as many regions of Italy to be visited as possible. Sardinian cycling fans must be delighted as it will be only the 4th time that the race has come to the island. The first visit in 1961, which was the year the Giro was celebrating 100 years of Italian unification, saw a short short stage beginning and ending in Cagliari. It was another 30 years however till the riders returned. At least this time the islanders saw four stages (over three days) when Olbia staged the start of the race and there wasn’t as long a wait till the next sighting of the Maglia Rosa in 2007.

The fact that the Giro has only visited one of it’s regions four times seems odd, especially when you consider that the race has started in the Netherlands three time. This reason for this is mainly down to the North-South economic divide in Italy which shows increasing poverty levels as you head from the top of the boot, down towards the toe and over to the islands.

The Giro d’Italia was set up and run by the Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper which was located in Milan which meant many of the early editions started and ended in Milan. And as the race was created to publicise and increase sales of the newspaper much of the racing was at the top of the country. There has always been more money in the industrial North so the population would be more likely to buy newspapers.

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Ripwell Reports. Roseburn to Leith Walk Cycle Route.

Over the last few months I have been following the final stages of Edinburgh City Councils planning process to build a new cycle route from the west of the city, near Murrayfield stadium, through the centre of the capital to the east in Leith.

The bold scheme which includes plenty of segregated cycle lanes will provide a safe and direct route for those wanting to commute to the city by bike (as well as making improvements to pedestrian safety) and the desired outcome is more people on bikes, less in cars which leads to less pollution and a clearer, healthier, happier Edinburgh.

However, being bold and ambitious the planned route has inevitably been met with scepticism and objection. The reasons people give when they say they are against the route are the same ones which are echoed across the country every time new or improved cycling infrastructure is put on the agenda and they are born out of prejudices and misinformation either personal or fed by the media. Perhaps the biggest thing holding back progress though is the human follies of fear of change and comfort in the status quo.

I sent my investigator, the well known historian and cyclist Giles Ripwell, to report on the project. He found out about the various campaigns who are for and against the scheme and revealed the concerns people have which make them wary of something which may be of a benefit to them in the future. He also reports from a highly charged public meeting which showed the type of miss-information and stubbornness which campaigners for safer cycling constantly have to battle against.

Myself and Giles are not involved in any of the campaigns and our thoughts are purely personal. The comments made in the meeting are not satire.

Ripwell Reports. Roseburn to Leith Walk Cycle Route.

The Roseburn to Leith Walk cycle route has been a project which The City Of Edinburgh Council has been putting together since the initial feasibility study in early 2014. They are keen to fulfill their promise to “make Edinburgh’s transport system one of the most environmentally friendly, healthiest and most accessible in Northern Europe by 2030” and the route they have been planing would help them achieve that. Original public consultation was promising with 72% of respondents strongly supporting and only 15% strongly against it. There were some residents and businesses along the route who rightly had concerns about some aspects of the plan, it was going to impact their day to day lives after all, and most contentions centred around the Roseburn Terrace and West Coates parts of the plan. A local residents group going by the name of Roseburn Cycle Route was set up and started spending plenty of time gathering facts about this and other schemes to provide evidence based answers to peoples worries. They broadly support the councils plan and believe it will be a benefit to the area.

Everything seemed to be going along smashingly but as the saying goes “Turning roads into cycle paths turns people into psychopaths”. Along came a fellow calling himself campaigning force Mr Peter Greggsons and his organisation Suits Not Kids. He was very much against the proposed infrastructure. Rather than encouraging safe, pollution free transport which would benefit future generations he would rather be a thorn in the councils side so no money gets wasted on bureaucracy. Being “a cyclist himself” though he formulated an alternative route for the council to consider and called it the “Roseburn Vision” or the “NCN1”. The vision must have been something special because a petition in favour of it gained 3500 signatures before it was even released. It may be possible that the signatures were from folk who read alarmist posters titled ‘Save Our Shops’ which ignored evidence which Roseburn Cycle Route had already gathered and suggested businesses could lose customers and close down because of the route. One real fear that businesses had was the loss of loading bays. This was addressed by the council and their plans were revised. Roseburn Cycle Route were happy with these challenges to the council, and the changes, as it gave businesses a better deal than the original plan while keeping the scheme on track. Suits Not Kids weren’t finished however and pressed ahead with the vision. Loading bays weren’t their only gripe with segregated cycling.

Another group which had concerns about aspects of the project are Living Streets Edinburgh. They are a local group of a national charity which campaigns for everyday walking. In principle they support new cycling infrastructure as long as it doesn’t take space away from existing pedestrianised areas. They also want pedestrian safety to be a consideration in any new cycle schemes and had highlighted a few areas in the councils plans where cyclists and walkers could come into conflict. They seem to have been working with the council in a calm and constructive way to try and provide a better deal for those they serve. A few of their concerns have been addressed but they are still very unhappy with the part of the route which will cut through a heavily used pavement on Princes Street.

After further consultation the council drew up an alternative plan which would go before the transport committee as well as the original. The decision on whether Option A (the original) or Option B would get the go ahead would be made by the committee on the 30th of August. A further decision to delay the decision or reject both proposals could also be made but with plenty of research and fact gathering already done this was unlikely. However,

The Meeting

A public meeting was set up by those opposing the cycle route and was held on August 2nd. Some of Edinburgh’s councillors who are on the transport committee, and therefore responsible on deciding the outcome of the matter, were present. So the anti-routers were anxious to put their views across and were probably ready to listen to the other sides arguments too as they must have wanted what was best for Roseburn. With the final decision less than two months away this would be their final opportunity to have their say so they would have had plenty of information to share with their guests to try and bring them round to their way of thinking.

Here is a not so brief summary of a long and heated meeting (my notes are in brackets):

Phil Noble the senior cycling officer on the council kicked things off. He explained that the project was part of the councils plan to make Edinburgh a people friendly city. He said surveys showed that large numbers of people in the city wanted to cycle but they wanted safer and more direct routes so the plan was there to make that happen. He added that cycling routes converged at Roseburn hence the importance that it is designed properly to ensure it is a safe through route. He went on to say workshops were held with locals, cycle groups and businesses to help the design and there was a need for an alternative to the NCN1 as it was less direct and came into contact with trams. He finished by saying he had spoken to every business in the last two months and after listening to concerns changes were made to the plans so now loading bays were to be on both sides of the road at Roseburn Terrace.

Questions were then taken from the floor. There were some worries raised about businesses having to change delivery times and whether the design of a junction was right. When someone asked why a segregated lane was causing so much hostility when it would reduce risk things started getting animated then the anti-routers fired their first shot. “It’s not safe to load from the other side of the road” one of them cried. But, there’s loading on both sides he was told.

Next up was Peter Greggsons from Suits Not Kids. The leader of the anti-routers was bound to have some good points to make. He admited to being  a cyclist and doesn’t think the proposal is right. He confessed that if he cycles 2 miles he gets sweaty so it’s unlikely that other people would cycle further. He then claimed that tram tracks weren’t as dangerous as made out before suggesting that better paint on cycle lanes was the way forward. He then explained that there’s 28 shops on Roseburn Terrace and loading would be cut by half, (or in real life, 22%).He said shoppers won’t be able to (illegally) use loading bays if lorries are there, (presumably the cycle lanes kerb also means they won’t be able to drive onto the pavement to park too). Mr Greggsons added that the NCN1 just needs better sign posting and suggested that more should be done to encourage the use of buses. Some might have thought he had completely missed the point of the council trying to improve conditions for cycling but he had one more trick up his sleeve to get them on side, the petitions. He pointed out that the petition in favour of the scheme had people living in areas away from the proposed route and therefore they shouldn’t carry as much weight. (For clarity from henseforth I will refer to these people as commuters). He then proudly mentioned the survey which showed 90% support for the vision.

Peter Greggsons then took some questions. Firstly he was asked: “Do you think it’s alright to fill in petitions with false addresses?” He said “yes” and “because it was for an anti-gun petition”. Next someone told him the point of scheme was to increase cycling and reduce car use which the vision wouldn’t do. Ah but “commuting cyclists would have different view from council and may not use their scheme.” (Presumably the commuters who agreed with the scheme in the original petition). He claimed the council didn’t use an economic case but improved health benefits as justification for the scheme. (Improved health is a benefit to economics) A respiratory physician, siding with Greggsons, said option A would be a disaster as it will increase congestion and pollution which is a cause of respiratory disease. (Apart from the fact that when recent roadworks which reduced some of the stretch down to two lanes showed there was no increase in congestion he may have a point).

A Gentleman from Donaldson’s Amenity Association was next to speak.

He said he was also a cyclist and sees the proposal as dangerous so current commuters won’t use the scheme. In his opinion filling in pot holes and better signage would be a better solution. In fairness to him he said he wants safer cycle routes. But still opposes the scheme. The fellow then mentioned Holland where good cycling infrastructure is common and explained it works there because it doesn’t get as dark so cyclists don’t need to worry about lights from oncoming traffic. He finished by saying the project would aggravate drivers because they will have space taken away from them and aggravating drivers doesn’t help cyclists and pedestrians. While he was talking someone in the audience asked hiw many people are killed along the stretch. “Typically one a year” was the answer. Someone was heard saying “All this for one cyclist  a year?”

Next up was a trader from Roseburn Terrace, a chap called George Rendall. He would be the final member of the opposition to speak.

He was adamant that shops will close if the plans go ahead. He said that he had asked every commuting cyclist if they would use it and no one had said yes. Furthermore, in his opinion, pedestrians will be terrified to use the pavement. (Though I assume they’ll be able to get down the pavement without cars parked on it). He explained that 50% of customers come by car but cyclists wouldn’t use his service because they can’t collect shopping by bike. “It’s illegal to carry large objects by bike” he added. A point was raised from the floor that other bike lanes show trade goes up. “Roseburn is different” was his reponse.

Next up was Roseburn Cycle Route who would be putting the case for the project to the concerned public.

As soon as he started people began walking out. “We need to act on air pollution.” The reply from the floor was “I don’t want to hear this waffle” as more people got ready to leave. Roseburn Cycle Route were putting across the reasons for a safe cycle route into the city. Here are some of them: A healthier mode of transport was needed as increasing obesity costs NHS £600m pa. There is a need to tackle congestion as there’s not space for everyone to drive into the city. 43% of hoseholds don’t have cars but cars have on average only 1.2 people in them. (More walk out). Population is growing in Edinburgh and they can’t keep using cars. They stated that 50% of people live within a 15 min cycle to work but what’s stopping them? The answer is dangerous tram tracks, unsafe and busy roads meaning no safe route into city. So, they pointed out, the plan is for people who don’t currently cycle but want to because,after all, why should you be brave to take a mode of transport? To answer questions on design it was pointed out that the plan uses best practice from elsewhere. And as for the cost? Forcasts show that the route will deliver £13m in benefits. Throughout Roseburn Cycle Routes slot people had been trickling out.

There were then more questions and points raised from the floor.

There was a complaint about cyclists speeding in Roseburn park, at 30mph. (It’s not know whether the complaint came from one of the many drivers that nonchalantly speed through Roseburn Terrace).There was then a complaint about pavement cycling. (It’s not know whether the complaint came from one of the many drivers that illegally park on the pavement on Roseburn Terrace). Another concerned resident pointed out that London and Europe have different climates and people won’t cycle in Edinburgh. He certainly has a point as Amsterdam, with a similar annual temperature, has slightly more rainfall over a typical year. Another point was made that pollution was not going to fall. (An opinion, not fact).

It was now down to the final speaker, David Spaven from Living Streets Edinburgh

More people were leaving. He Welcomed the scheme as it would improve walking safety as well as that for cyclists. He had concerns about floating bus stop and speeding cyclists. His view was that they need to turn Roseburn into people friendly not vehicle friendly place. Option B was his preference as both pavements are widened in that plan. He said he was impressed with the councils willingness to listen to his concerns. He was not keen on the vision, which has segments which both cyclists have to use together. He believes shared use is no good and does nothing for pedestrians and infact makes things worse for them. Greggsons defended the vision by saying he hasn’t seen conflict on one of the shared use paths in Edinburgh.

And with that the meeting drew to a close.

I would like to thank Mr Ripwell for his report.

The decision on which option (A or B), if any, will get the go ahead is being made by the Transport Committee of the City of Edinburgh Council on Tuesday the 30th of August. I hope they honour their promise to “make Edinburgh’s transport system one of the most environmentally friendly, healthiest and most accessible in Northern Europe by 2030” and ignore the baseless reasons behind opposition to the scheme.

I have to thank @PidginPosting for providing me with most of the information I used in this post and I would encourage you to visit Roseburn Cycle Routes website as well as CyclingFallacies.com.

Tour de Past, Stage 1. 2006, Thor Hushovd gets a paper cut.

 

First published July 2016.

Today the Tour de France starts with what can only be described as a sprint stage. The route from Mont-Saint-Michel to Utah Beach is similar to many first days of the race. But as well as sprint stages kicking off the Tour in recent years there have also been time trials and short hilly finishes meaning the first yellow jersey of each edition of the race has been worn by different types of riders ranging from Marcel Kittel to Alejandro Valverde.

Remember the good old days though? A time when the Tour used to follow a set formula for the first few days. Start with a prologue then a couple or three days for the sprinters. “I like what I know and I know what I like” was the order of the day. Except some people of the “variety is the spice of life” persuasion didn’t like it and found the format too boring and predictable meaning we’ll probably have a stage 1 finish atop the Galibier before long.

I loved these stages. The usually technical prologue could often catch out some big names and the sprints were hotly contested between many riders. They were different to the sprints of today. Lead out trains were smaller, the front of the peleton wasn’t an arrow head, I have memories of a mad gallop to the line, riders strung right across the road, wide boulevards. Ah the memories.

In 2006 Thor Hushovd had won the prologue, as expected, so was in yellow as the peleton raced into Strasbourg on stage 1 proper. Being one of the top sprinters of the time he was expected to be in contention for the stage alongside the likes of Erik Zabel, Daniele Bennati and Robbie McEwan, who Paul Sherwen kept reminding us had the nickname ‘The Scarlet Pimpernel’. The end of this sprint seems fairly routine. You can see Hushovd next to the barriers and he hardly gets going, probably too boxed in and he rolls over the line in 9th as Jimmy Casper wins. The French are delighted with the victory and everyone breaths a sigh of relief as the sprint ends without a crash.

Bizarrely though the camera is soon on the big Norwegian and he is lying on the road with his yellow jersey covered in blood. After he is led away in the ambulance it becomes clear from video replays that as he was racing towards the line he brushes against one of those stupid cardboard hand things giving him a massive cut. Embarrassingly for the organisers these green hands were handed out by one of there sponsors PMU. To add insult to injury, as well as losing a lot of blood, Hushovd lot the yellow jersey as George Hincapie gained some bonus seconds in some of the intermediate sprints.Thankfully in the end the injury wasn’t too serious and Hushovd was able to continue in the race.

One of the other bizzare things of the day is Bernard Eisel finishing in 8th place riding for……FDJ.

Frank Ross “All cyclists are….” Bingo.

Anyone for a game of ‘Frank Ross “All Cyclists Are….” Bingo’?

The confrontational businessman, Frank Ross, who is the leader of the SNP in the Edinburgh City Council doesn’t like ‘cyclists’. He does like witnessing and cataloging unacceptable behaviour by some people on bikes and seems to enjoy blaming all people who ride bikes for those individuals actions.

These narrow minded views are usually reserved for the comments sections of Facebook but Frank is a policy maker.

They are also very dangerous views as they legitimise and fuel the aggression and violence dished out to innocent law abiding people on bikes by people in cars.

Last week it seemed he had changed his ways as he used the word “some”. Was he starting to see ‘cyclists’ as individuals?  Nope. Only ‘drivers’ are afforded that luxury.

Anyway, now for some fun and a game of ‘Frank Ross “All Cyclists Are. ….” Bingo’. See how many times Frank can demonise everyone who rides a bike.

Still not called “Bingo”? Might as well throw this old bahoo in then:

 

FRANK ROSS BINGO UPDATE!

Frank seemed to have been quiet for a while. I thought his prejudices had mellowed, until this the other day. Is Frank again suggesting cyclists should be licensed in a scheme similar to many schemes around the world? Schemes which have failed and wasted tax payers money?

Why not just give a description of the person, the same as you would when witnessing any other instance of anti-social behaviour? 

Txurrukas Txorica Txadventure and other odd rider transfers

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Photo from Xabiaz on Flickr

As I was skimming down the start list of the Tour of Catalunya today I had to do a double take about a third the way down. Wearing number 78 for Orica Green-Edge would be the Basque climber Amets Txurruka. I’m positive that I was already aware that the 33 year old had joined the Australian team, as I like to keep up with the transfers in the off season, but seeing things written down in the context of an actual race was still a shock and I’m sure I’ll still be rubbing my eyes in a comical fashion when I see Txurruka in his Green-Edge colours.

Yeah sure, riders move from team to team all the time but there are some examples of a certain type of rider pitching up at a certain type of team that feels so odd that something jolts inside you when you find out and you feel that the universe just won’t be the same place anymore.

Witnessing the start of Txurruka’s Txorica Txadventure (sorry) was exactly one of those occasions of weirdness. After spending his first season as a professional at Barloword, the last ten years have been spent at the Spanish regional teams Euskatel-Euskadi and Caja Rural. So a Basque, who is well into his twilight years, moving to an Australian team with a strong identity of having riders from the colonies will always strike me as bizarre every time I see him now.

But with cycling at a stage where old stalwarts are getting ready to retire and the new generation are trying to better themselves, there have been plenty of other strange moves which are curious for different reasons.

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My First Cyclocross Experience.

Cyclocross World Championships review, by a road racing fan.

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On Sunday the final event of the cyclocross season was held in Oostmalle, Belgium.

This occurrence always gets me excited as it means that the the road racing season, proper, would be about to start. Sure there have been some silly little races in the Middle East and other places that aren’t Europe but with Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Paris-Nice on the horizon things are starting to get serious.

This year is different however.  I finally got round to watching my first weekend of cyclocross recently. It was the World Championships in Zolder and as it was only three weeks ago and the fact that I thoroughly enjoyed things means that this February the end of the cyclocross season has come to soon.

Before I sat down to watch my first race, the Womens Elite Final, I thought I’d have enough knowledge of ‘cross’, as they call it, to understand what was going to happen. While I had never watched a full race, never mind a weekend of racing, I had seen plenty of clips of the sport on the internet, though mostly of racers bunny hopping over obstacles, to show me what went on. I was also aware of some of the riders, past and present, from listening to podcasts and from them popping up on various social media time lines. I was familiar with recent World Champions Lars Boom and Zdeneck Stybar. Marianne Vos and Pauline Ferrand-Prevout were the two huge names on the womens side of the sport and like Lars and Zdeneck  had changed disciplines and were now riding on the road.

So I was expecting some form of road racing on mud with things playing out the same way as in a one day classic. The terrain would certainly be different but the riders and the equipment were essentially the same. I thought I would be watching a condensed version of Roubaix or Flanders where the strongest team would gradually grind down the opposition allowing their team leader to claim victory. Right from the start though I became aware that I didn’t have a clue. So here is my guide to cyclocross, for a roadie.

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Katushas unfortunate kit design.

Before the start of the season when all the teams were unveiling there new kits it was pointed out that there was a flaw in Katushas design. If three members of the team were standing next to each other your eyes were drawn to three massive red K’s.

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But yesterday another problem with the Russian teams gear emerged as Alexander Kristoff sprinted, head down, to beat Mark Cavendish in stage 2 of the Tour of Qatar.

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I’m just hoping they carefully consider what helmets to use during time trials because something like this, at a certain angle, would be highly inappropriate.

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It was a good day all round for the team as they learned they wouldn’t face sanctions despite their recent problems over doping.

Giles Ripwell from the final stage.

Stage 8. London to London.

My recap of the final stage of the Tour de of Britain comes a day late. TEAM wiggins had cause to celebrate after the end as our rider, a certain Mr Owen Doull finished third overall and ended up on, what they call in cycling competitions, ‘The Podium’. And by by jingos! Mr Wiggins-Sir can party! He introduced me to a concoction called a ‘Yager Bomber’ and after 2 of them I was quite worse for wear!
The route went round and round and round London taking in many of the tourist structures of the town. As well as piccadilly circus, now closed after revelations of cruelty to some of its performing animals, we went passed Whitehall, The Strand and The Trafalgar Square. The Trafalgar Square commemorates a decisive battle in the Boer War won by the British army lead by a sea-faring fellow called Mr Horatio Nelsan. A nearby statue, called Nelsans column, was built to honour him and it is one of the biggest erections in London.
Mr Bradley Wiggins-Sir told me that he won an Olympic gold medal in London and made sure I was aware that Mr Chris Froom had never won a medal of any description.
Eli Viviani won the stage after my good friend Andrew Greipel was disqualified and Eddie Bosan-Haggen won the competition overall.

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