dunwich dynamo XXII

Was stage 3 of the 2014 Tour de France, from Cambridge to London, an homage to the Dunwich Dynamo? Of course it was.

The great frivolity, the twenty-second edition of the Dunwich Dynamo, runs tomorrow night so it’s just possible you’ve time to put a data display on your bars, toss some ‘factor 50’, sandwiches and budgie-smugglers in your sun-bleached, Carradice, Longflap and head for London Fields. More likely you’re still short of sleep so why not turn off your computer and take a nap? You can read this later.

Essex sections of the traditional route – Epping, Moreton, Fyfield, Finchingfield – are still glowing from sanctification by the passage of Le Grand Boucle. ‘VEHICLES PARKED HERE WILL BE TOWED’ signs were conspicuous while riding the DD route-sheet reconnaissance a couple of weeks ago. Was stage 3 of the 2014 Tour de France, Cambridge to London SW1, an homage to the Dunwich Dynamo? Of course it was.

photo: ms. rif

Ignoring this sprinters’ benefit on my doorstep I took a spin – via Cambridge – to Yorkshire for Sunday’s classic GC shake-down. Two hundred miles of riding slowly are the perfect warm-up for the task of witnessing a big, international road-race. It slows down your mind so you’re ready to wait – for hours – calmly.

The Tour de France was invented to sell newspapers. You don’t go out to watch it to see patterns. The point is to be there. It’s a spiritual thing.

As usual – almost – the best part was the publicity caravan that precedes the race. The Caravane publicitaire is at its best after a couple of weeks, once fatigue has turned its relentless participants into grinning zombies; but it’s still pretty spectacular, even on stage 2.

giant motorised packet of frozen chips climbs Holme Moss

The surreal parade, the trinkets flung to the crowd – who blithely risk their lives to retrieve worthless tributes among the speeding floats – show human organisation at its most base. The Caravan pub. is tacky, venal and vulgar. The perfect prelude to the fleeting passage of 197 unemployable, under-weight hypochondriacs, on whose, self-sacrifice, fortitude and unquestioning loyalty to an abstract ideal, the whole over-blown, mobile metropolis is based.

Monday afternoon; fast riders suffering in one direction.

Saturday night; a hedonistic beach-bum excursion rolls the other way.

Dunwich Dynamo logo
Dunwich Dynamo: Illustration by Jamie Wignall
 The entourage of the Le Tour is visible from space.

Thousands of pilgrims to the drowned city can pass like ghosts leaving no trace.

gone-too-soon V. won’t-go-away

Nicole Cooke’s farewell statement is something like her career, awkward and awesome. Read it and regret. We may not witness such power again.

“Show me a hero and I will write you a tragedy.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald

According to Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald:- “There are no second acts in American lives.” Lance Armstrong has already had two…

  • ACT I. Wunderkind with swimmer’s shoulders – World Champion at 22 – is tragically struck down by cancer.
  • ACT II. Skeletal conqueror with a coffee-grinder cadence turns out – who’d have guessed it? – to be on anything he can get away with.

…and is rolling the dice for a third.

Not sure exactly what the next chapter will consist of, but some unlikely version of ‘PENITENCE’ is sure to feature.

won’t go away
gone-too-soon

The shit-storm surrounding his latest, ‘confessional’ interview has over-shadowed the retirement of the World’s greatest living Welsh person (not Gareth Bale).

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Nicole Cooke’s farewell statement is something like her career, awkward and awesome. Read it and regret. We may not witness such power again. Read it and celebrate. Be grateful that you lived while the tiger rode.

Rash Prediction:- Nicole Cooke will not be making any embarrassing comebacks.

the bell?

After 9(NINE) years of campaigning, broken promises and attempted sell-outs by the blazer brigade, it seems we will end up with a comparable facility to the old race-track that combines space for Mountain Bike and Cyclo-Cross racing with a usable road circuit.

The ‘Velo Park’ – promised as part of the Olympic Legacy, restitution for the stolen lands of Eastway – is under construction.

After 9(NINE) years of campaigning, broken promises and attempted sell-outs by the blazer brigade, it seems we will end up with a comparable facility to the old race-track that combines space for Mountain Bike and Cyclo-Cross racing with a usable road circuit.

There’s no room for complacency  but a phased hand-back is currently planned to begin in September 2013 through to early 2014. The Park is planned to be open from 08:00 to 22:00 seven days a week, the road and BMX circuits may be floodlit after dark.

There’s an outstanding issue regarding the judges cabin. As currently planned it won’t work. The consultation for this detail of the design is open until Thursday 13 December. Find more details and how to comment here.

You can comment by post or email. If not you who? If not now when?

Kimmage limitation

Everyone is willing to agree that L.A. is not just a great riderbut was also a master of ‘scientific preparation’, we might expect Walsh and Kimmage’s dogged persistence – in the face of bullying and lawsuits – to be praised.

The UCI‘s denouncement of Lance Armstrong vindicates Paul Kimmage and David Walsh.
Now that almost

…everyone is willing to agree that L.A. is not just a great rider but was also a master of ‘scientific preparation’, we might expect Walsh and Kimmage’s dogged persistence – in the face of bullying and lawsuits – to be praised.

The UCI are, however, persisting with a case for defamation against Kimmage. Their action is against Paul Kimmage in person which can only be interpreted as an attempt to silence him. When Armstrong went after David Walsh he at least had the dignity to sue his mighty publisher.

This gives us all a chance to participate in the clean-up operation from our armchairs.

good and evil (part 2)

Even as the myth of Lance Armstrongfinally crumbles to dust the reputation of a much less successful, ex-road-racer, who took every opportunity to associate with the powerful, and was known for good works, has also crashed hard.

Playtimes were different then‘ soundtrack.
Even as the myth of Lance Armstrong finally crumbles to dust the reputation of a much less successful, ex-road-racer, who took every opportunity to associate with the powerful,

and was known for good works,

has also crashed hard.

Jimmy ‘Oscar’ Savile

Perhaps it’s possible to render the narrative of any life into a story of heroism and victimhood…

Abu Hamza al-Masri; a disabled war-veteran who lost an eye and a hand fighting to liberate Afghanistan from Soviet imperialism?
Tour of Britain 1951

…but Jimmy ‘Oscar’ Savile may test that theory to breaking point?

I always assumed his ‘charidee‘ work was an alibi for an absence of any discernible talent to entertain but now it’s clear that it also covered more sinister crimes.

In the 1980’s I worked in show business and was told by a young actress, in an idle, time-filling, location conversation, that Savile – already an unfashionable, preposterous figure – “liked pushing little handicapped girls around”. A friend who worked with Anthony Newley who’d been a pop-star in the early 1960’s, passed on the gossip that, when Saville first came to London he was a pimp.

With hearsay rampant how did the reputation of the nonce-case survive? How did he avoid exposure for more than fifty years? In asking this important question nobody has yet denounced the prolific kiddy-fiddler as a cyclist?

Are Tony Parsons, Matthew Parris, Kate Hoey, Petronella Wyatt all on holiday?

hero to zero, good and evil (part 1)

Way back in 2004 Greg Lemond was working on his autobiography with a great sense of urgency, certain that Lance Armstrong was about to be unmasked as a doper, a revelation Greg believed would kill-off interest in bike racing in the US, and consequently hurt the book’s sales.

Way back in 2004 Greg Lemond was working on his autobiography with a great sense of urgency, certain that Lance Armstrong was about to be unmasked as a doper, a revelation Greg believed would kill-off interest in bike racing in the US, and consequently hurt the book’s sales.

discovery – better late than never?

All Armstrong’s major rivals, Pantani, Ullrich, Basso, Zülle, had problems with medical controls or were implicated in blood-doping. There’s another list of riders – Heras, Hamilton, Landis – who rode as Armstrong’s team-mates, departed to fend for themselves, then tested positive and were busted.

As circumstantial evidence mounted an ominous question grew ever-more pressing. How – in an era when ‘scientific preparation’ was assumed to be widespread, sophisticated and systematic – did Lance Armstrong manage to dominate the World’s biggest stage race without ever testing positive? For years the most likely explanation seemed that Lance had sold his soul to the devil.

In 1967 Jacques Anquetil broke the hour record, for the second time, covering 47.493 km in sixty painful minutes. The achievement was never ratified as he declined to give a sample to the medical control. His morally rigourous position – measure the track, check the watch but I am a professional, how I prepare is between me and my doctor – was echoed recently, in reference to l‘affaire Armstrong, by Malcolm Gladwell. They’re all on-it, why not make ‘scientific preparation’ another facet of the sport?

Professional sport is never fair. Ever wondered why Ben Johnson ran for Canada not Jamaica? Cycle-sport – a product of the industrial age with no idealised pre-history – is least fair of all, it’s whole point, the employment of technology to increase human performance.

Coca-cola sponsored the Tour-de-France while it’s main active ingredient – caffeine – was on the list of banned substances. It’s legal to sleep in a hypobaric chamber or train at high altitude but stockpiling your own blood for re-transfusion is forbidden. Sport needs rules, and cheating is bad, but the line between ‘positive’ and ‘clean’ is essentially arbitrary.

Anquetil died of stomach cancer aged 53. The real issue is harm reduction. It’s not good for athletes to dose themselves with the latest medical developments simply to keep up in a pharmaceutical arms-race; but harm-reduction and cycle-sport have a problematic relationship.

Racing bikes is dangerous. A career racing bikes is only for people who’ve made their peace with mortality. As Sean Kelly put it: “You don’t think about hospital you think about winning.” Who now cares if Casartelli, Kivilev or Weylandt were riding clean?

Armstrong’s case has a further complication. His fanatical interest in pharmacology began in desperate self-preservation. Without medical technology the self confessed ‘cancer geek’ would be dead and wouldn’t have won the Tour de France even once.

When David Millar – who was once ‘good’, then became ‘bad’ and is now widely considered ‘good’ again – states emphatically that; “there’s no way Bradley Wiggins isn’t clean” the first reaction of an informed listener can only be…

“…Yes David, but you used to say that about yourself before you got busted.”

The question – ‘Is he clean?’ –  has importance but only becomes preeminent in the shallow and chauvinistic reading of sport, as morally-uplifting. The true fan must ask rather: ‘Is he entertaining?’ ‘Does he put on a good show? The final judgement on the Armstrong years is not that they were corrupt or evil, they were just a bit less interesting than they might have been.

Sport’s unique selling point is that the outcome is supposed to be unpredictable. King Lear may be dramatic but if you’ve seen it once you’ll never be surprised by its denouement again. The one thing large organisations of all stripes – from Nike, Inc. to the Communist Party of the People’s Republic of China  – have in common is a strong dislike of uncertainty.

Lance cultivated powerful friends and allies; associates who wanted some of his glory, his manifest personal power, reflected on them.

These individuals and organisations all understand that the difference between good and evil is not so important or clear as the simple-minded narratives they offer us. One reason Lance stayed ‘good’ for so long is that – even when evidence to the contrary was starring them square in the face – a lot of powerful people and organisations wanted him to be.

Bicycle road racing – the true monarch of sports – has no moral value but it’s worthy of study; full of parables. Is Lance villain or victim?

Yes.

He is both.

Armstrong’s greatest achievement?

As the endgame of Lance Armstrong’s fall develops let’s remember that as well as a former hero he is a man.

As the endgame of Lance Armstrong’s fall develops let’s remember that as well as a former hero he is a man; son of a teenage single-mother, a professional athlete – in the infant sport of triathlon – from his teens. Remember also the pathetic fate of his baldy-headed, jug-eared rival ‘Elephantino’.Don’t consider these people to be super-human. The beauty of their achievement rests on the fact that they have only two arms, two legs and two lungs, one heart and one brain. They are people like us. They are not super-humans, and they don’t become evil incarnate when it turns out they crossed an arbitrary line. Dishonesty and hypocrisy are deplorable, compassion and empathy, virtues.

Lance and Sheryl met at a charity dinner in 2003. Sheryl Crow is ten years older than Lance. He was the winningest professional bike racer in the World, she a big-time rock’n’roll singer. It’s reported Sheryl suggested they go on a bike ride. ‘The coffee grinder’ managed the request well enough that their romance lasted for three years.

The ability to ride a bike very fast is useful when you’re in a race or some other big hurry; for example rushing to catch a ferryboat. The ability to ride very fast is instructive for slower riders, as it is very likely to be – in part – the product of efficiency.

Economy of effort is a target, an object worthy of study for all. Make it look easy, or – at the very least – no harder than you want it to be. Efficiency can be used to arrive at the opera-house with every eye-lash, every grain of foundation, in perfect order, or to cover 40 kilometres in 55 minutes and pass the timekeeper with a beard of drool and snot; both are manifestations of control.

Many hard-riding, performance cyclists eschew ‘junk miles‘, a habit they carry into retirement. Does Ivan Basso ride with his wife? Did Jan Ullrich ever undertake a courtship by acting as amateur reiseführer? For me L.A.’s greatest achievement – the sign he really has some idea how to ride a bike – is his proven ability to ride slowly. Although, to be fair, some of his chosen leisure riding partners have been more than somewhat questionable.

“…so tell me Lance? Why exactly is the Pope against the war?”

who is killing who?

Reader – and black-belt bollard farmer – Richard Lewis asks this pertinent question… “In a recent post you asked whether Wiggins’ victory would make more people cycle. Now, the question is, could he be the agent to undo progress with cycling as a transport mode in this country, if the risk-averse and anti-cycling lobby hear what he says and make helmet-wearing compulsory? Shouldn’t he just stick to his day job?”

Reader – and black-belt bollard farmer – Richard Lewis asks this pertinent question…

“In a recent post you asked whether Wiggins’ victory would make more people cycle. Now, the question is, could he be the agent to undo progress with cycling as a transport mode in this country, if the risk-averse and anti-cycling lobby hear what he says and make helmet-wearing compulsory? Shouldn’t he just stick to his day job?”

It is indeed unfortunate that Wiggins was drawn into commenting on the tragic slaughter of Dan Harris. Interpret Wiggins remarks as misplaced professionalism. He was asked a question and gave an answer. Talking to the press is part of his day job. The fact that Wiggins’ remarks are widely reported as if he were an expert on public health is another manifestation of ‘you-cyclists-are-all-the-same’ foolishness which treats people who ride bikes as a homogeneous out-group.

Wiggins is not an expert on public heath. Indeed his chosen métier takes him into the elevated area of performance where health and fitness – which normally complement each other well – diverge drastically.

People get unnecessarily aerated about crash-hats for utility cycle riders because they don’t want to talk about more important stuff. The main thing about helmets for cycling is that they’re a marginal issue, not that important. It’s usually best to avoid getting drawn into arguments about them and move onto something more significant.

We need to be vigilant against creeping normalisation of helmets – for anything other than antagonistic sports riding – and to challenge the exaggerated value some people assign them, despite the very modest claims made by their manufacturers and testers. As this belief is often quasi-spiritual the challenge needs to be made gently to avoid putting
people on the defensive.

It’s a mistake to encourage or discourage an adult to wear – or not wear – a helmet. For adults personal risk assessment is best left to the individual.

Lot’s of people wear bicycle crash-hats on the back of their heads – where they can’t protect their brows and cheek bones in a forward fall – or with the straps so loose the helmet would be useless in an impact. Their helmet is a lucky charm, some kind of bulky and awkward St. Christopher or Ganesh. I once heard a youth worker – with ambitions to become a cycling instructor – say:- “So long as I’m wearing my helmet I feel safe.”

You can find everything – and probably more – than you need to know clearly and calmly expressed here. This page – in particular – is a useful corrective for people who imagine a helmet will protect them in anything beyond a relatively minor impact. It also stresses the importance of correct adjustment. If a helmet is worn it needs to fit, and be held firmly in the right place otherwise it’s value is only symbolic, which is at best no value, and may increase your risk of injury.

It’s true that in Spain national outrage following the running down and death of Ricardo and maiming of Javier, Otxoa led eventually to – lightly enforced – helmet compulsion. In Britain – where bicycle madness has bitten deeper – we who take a professional or amateur interest in public health can use any hysteria over crash hats to rehearse the important truths about who is killing whom.

Use the following simile with care –  it’s inflammatory – but nonetheless instructive. When a person who doesn’t travel by bike tells somebody that does travel by bike that they ought to wear a crash-hat it’s not at the same level of infamy as people who aren’t Jews telling Jews to wear yellow stars but there is a clear equivalence.

end of an era

In bicycle road racing favouritism makes it harder to win. To put it another way outsiders have an advantage. Zoetemelk won the World Championship at 38 when the others didn’t take his late attack seriously enough, quickly enough. You can’t chase everyone.

In bicycle road racing favouritism makes it harder to win. To put it another way outsiders have an advantage. Zoetemelk won the World Championship at 38 when the others didn’t take his late attack seriously enough, quickly enough. You can’t chase everyone.
Vino – also in his 39th year – won the the Olympic Road Race with a jump on Putney High Street forcing a gap that he held – with the aid of Rigoberto Uran a non-sprinting Colombian – all the way up the Fulham Road, through South Ken and Knightsbridge, down Constitution Hill and along the Mall.

Churlish commentary followed Vinokourov’s well-judged, opportunist triumph, complaining about his history of blood-spinning. Suppose the race had regrouped on the run-in and Cavendish had won for the Isle of Man who would have carped about Bernhard Eisel working – not for the glory of Austria – but for his regular teamate? At least Rigoberto Uran – another Murdoch mercenary – didn’t wait to see if he could help.

Cycle-sport has no idealised history to draw on. Bike racers had sponsors names on their jerseys, stayed in the best hotels and engaged the best doctors when star soccer players were still travelling to games on the bus, with the crowd. Cycle sport has never been tainted with the Corinthian spirit.

Vinokourov isn’t just a throwback to the glory days of Deutsche Telekom, I strongly suspect he will be the last product of the Soviet Union to win an Olympic gold medal in any discipline that makes you sweat, maybe the last of all? Whatever you think about that, or his conviction for hosting somebody else’s blood, it can’t be denied that anyone still racing at the highest level while looking down the barrel of forty years old must really like riding a bike. The warrior deserves his glorious exit.

regeneration?

As London was basking in the first weeks of the Wiggins era, following… on Wednesday the very evening of Wiggin’s coronation at Hampton Court – over at Olympopolis on the Lower Lea,  a man driving a bus ran over, and slaughtered a man riding a bike

As London was basking in the first weeks of the Wiggins era, following…

  • …Friday’s star turn in the opening ceremony

 

  • …Saturday’s demonstration of  loyalty and fallibility – like a circus performer falling off the tightrope on purpose to remind the audience that she only makes it look easy

 

  • …on Wednesday the very evening of Wiggin’s coronation at Hampton Court – over at Olympopolis on the Lower Lea,  a man driving a bus ran over, and slaughtered a man riding a bike.

 

Suburban land-use encourages and enables motor-dependance. It also encourages careless and reckless driving. Reports state that the bus – an ‘Olympic bus’ – was ferrying journalists between venues. I expect the passengers were delayed and distracted by their involvement in this terrible systems failure? Maybe it would have been more practical, more reliable to encourage and enable them to travel by bike?