Tag Archives: Cycling

Le Tour 2012

With the Olympics this year, and some sort of football tournament, it’d be easy to overlook what is probably the greatest single sporting spectacle on the planet, the Tour de France. It’s a single competition over three weeks, covering 3479km (this year). Cycling races are complex beasts, and can be confusing to the novice, so here’s the quick starter.

  1. There are teams
  2. Cycling closely behind someone at speed means you expend less energy. This is important for top athletes who are evenly matched, it’s a total hazard for the lower speed commuter and so isn’t advised in this situation!
  3. The above leads to strategy with some teams working for yellow, some for green, some for the team competition and some simply to get their sponsors as much screentime as possible by breaking away.
  4. There are several competitions. The big one is the yellow jersey. This is for the person who gets the smallest total time. The British hope here is Bradley Wiggins in Team Sky (Olympics allowing)
  5. The green jersey is the points jersey. Points are awarded for various feats, such as crossing the line first on a stage, or reaching an intermediate sprint. It is difficult to do this from day to day, so green jersey contenders pick their moments and tend to come in late on stages when they’re not in contention. The British hope here is Mark Cavendish in Team Sky (Olympics allowing)
  6. The polka dot jersey is awarded to the person who gets most points for climbs
  7. There are jerseys for young riders, and for ‘most combative’ (awarded by judges) as well as a team competition.
  8. The big bunch of riders is called the pelaton. French is used a lot for cycling terms.
  9. If there is a good effort, you will often hear the commentator (especially on Eurosport) say ‘Chapeau’, i.e. a tip of the hat. The ‘Lanterne Rouge’ for example is the rider with the longest overall time (in a group ride, they’d be carrying the red light to alert cars).
  10. Sometimes riders will escape the peloton. They do this for screentime. Occasionally, they stay away and get a stage win, but this is tough as the pelaton can ride more efficiently. If a breakaway contains a rider who is in contention for a jersey, the breakaway is more likely to be hunted down by the peloton.
  11. A team will have riders who do different jobs, e.g. act as ‘lead out’ man, i.e. a movable wind-break for the sprinter, who will then arrive a few hundred metres from the line relatively fresh – or a ‘domestique’ whose job it is to fall back to the team car and deliver water to the team at the front, and then repeat – this exertion usually means they aren’t in contention for the stage.
  12. There is some etiquette, such as “Don’t start to attack when your main contender has a mechanical issue”(although, if already attacking, it’s a different issue) and “If the peloton is stopping for a ‘comfort break’, just roll along until everyone has had a chance to pee”
  13. Finally, you hear a lot about ‘doping’. This did used to be a big issue, but cycling these days is very clean – there are ‘biological passports’ in place – and when you do hear of something, it’s actually a good thing as it’s somebody being caught and the sport doing its utmost to police itself.

If you watch the tour live, you need to watch it with a decent commentator (I like the Eurosport coverage, they do live tweeting and interact with the audience) – there’s a lot of ‘rolling along’ and so they do explain things for newbies (without overdoing it for those who don’t need explanations).

A grand tour is really is like a game of mobile chess, especially on big mountain stages where riders will try to break their rivals by attacking and pushing them over the edge.

When watching live I tend to have it as ‘background noise’ and pick up when something interesting happens, but it really kicks off (usually) in the last 50km, and this is what you’ll get on a highlights package (ITV4 or Eurosport usually).

Do give it a try, it really can be compelling stuff.

I’ve put the course for 2012 below – in 2013 it will be in Corsica.

Stage Type Date Start and Finish Distance
P Prologue Saturday 30 June Liège ⇒ Liège 6.4 km
1 Plain Sunday 1 July Liège ⇒ Seraing 198 km
2 Plain Monday 2 July Visé ⇒ Tournai 207.5 km
3 Medium mountains Tuesday 3 July Orchies ⇒ Boulogne-sur-Mer 197 km
4 Plain Wednesday 4 July Abbeville ⇒ Rouen 214.5 km
5 Plain Thursday 5 July Rouen ⇒ Saint-Quentin 196.5 km
6 Plain Friday 6 July Épernay ⇒ Metz 207.5 km
7 Medium mountains Saturday 7 July Tomblaine ⇒ La Planche des Belles Filles 199 km
8 Medium mountains Sunday 8 July Belfort ⇒ Porrentruy 157.5 km
9 Individual time-trial Monday 9 July Arc-et-Senans ⇒ Besançon 41.5 km
10 High Mountains Wednesday 11 July Mâcon ⇒ Bellegarde-sur-Valserine 194.5 km
11 High Mountains Thursday 12 July Albertville ⇒ La Toussuire – Les Sybelles 148 km
12 Medium mountains Friday 13 July Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne ⇒ Annonay Davézieux 226 km
13 Plain Saturday 14 July Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux ⇒ Le Cap d’Agde 217 km
14 High Mountains Sunday 15 July Limoux ⇒ Foix 191 km
15 Plain Monday 16 July Samatan ⇒ Pau 158.5 km
16 High Mountains Wednesday 18 July Pau ⇒ Bagnères-de-Luchon 197 km
17 High Mountains Thursday 19 July Bagnères-de-Luchon ⇒ Peyragudes 143.5 km
18 Plain Friday 20 July Blagnac ⇒ Brive-la-Gaillarde 222.5 km
19 Individual time-trial Saturday 21 July Bonneval ⇒ Chartres 53.5 km
20 Plain Sunday 22 July Rambouillet ⇒ Paris Champs-Élysées 120 km
Table Built: Wednesday, 06 June 2012 20:00 UK
Speed at the Velodrome

London Prepares: Track World Cup -London – Day 1

Last night we went to the Olympic Velodrome to the test event for the Olympics. Last year we travelled to Manchester – a much longer distance, however, it was much less hassle!

With Manchester, there were only half as many seats, but as it wasn’t an Olympic test event, they were much easier to get (annoyingly, though I’m a member of British Cycling, I didn’t notice they had an advance booking period until 30 minutes after it closed – so I could only get tickets for Thursday). The ‘Olympic fever’ has attracted a lot of folks who don’t usually follow the sport – this has both it’s good and bad side.

Women's Team Pursuit, GB

Arriving at Stratford tube, I had expected the route to the Olympic park to be clear, it really wasn’t. There were no big obvious signs, or clearly marked walkway – instead we had some guys with foam fingers. Being human, from time to time they forgot to point the foam fingers in the appropriate direction. Arriving at the park, we had to cross a big road. Admittedly, there was not much traffic on it, but it did strike me as bad planning for it not to be pedestrianised.

The queue was huge – though reasonably fast moving – though this was for one venue, I dread to think what the queue will be like when it’s all running. The marshalls were all very polite, but a little bit jobsworthy (‘keep walking’ was a constant refrain, even when we already were walking – or unable to walk as they were checking tickets).

Once in, transfers were by bus, which seemed to take the most long winded way around the park. I hope that the buses will be optional when the Olympics themselves are on. Honestly, we could have walked that journey twice in less time by taking a more direct route.

The velodrome as a whole is impressive. It looks wider than Manchester – and there are good views all around. (There is something about the geometry of Manchester that I prefer, though – but London has the better building).

There are two big screens (they should put small screens on the back of the big screens, so that those queuing for refreshments can still see what is happening). The refreshments are pretty good actually, I had feared that as a sponsor, MacDonalds would be the only option. The food wasn’t *great*, but it could have been a lot worse. They’re not as cheap as they could be, but they’re not massively overpriced by London standards either. There were good sandwiches, porridge(!), wine, beer etc. That said, the food isn’t ‘cheap’, nor is it diverse – the beer wasn’t a particularly good one, and it was of the brand ‘take it or leave it’.

The velodrome is kept warm as it makes the air thinner (hence the track faster) – it is supposed to be cooler for the spectators. That’s as may be, but it was still like being in a swimming pool (without the chlorine smell). If visiting, I strongly recommend that you are able to remove layers. I do hope that the upper levels were not hotter.

We were watching the Team Pursuit heats. It’s not my favourite discipline – I prefer the Sprint, Keirin and Points races – but I like the spectacle of the close riding. Individual pursuit and time trials don’t, as a rule, do it for me – though I do like Australian pursuit. When Team GB rode, the atmosphere was electric, especially when the men’s team saw the lap times tumble. Some of my favourites, are sadly not Olympic disciplines any more, e.g. the Madison – that doesn’t work well on TV for me, though – much easier to follow live.

Both the men and the women are in the team pursuit finals for a gold/silver medal.

Coming out of the velodrome, we had to queue for buses again – this was mostly orderly, though it took ages. At one point they asked people to come forward and we had three queues side by side, so the orderly queue turned into a bit of a scrum when the bus arrived. This was entirely created by the marshalls, and it all would have been more orderly if they’d have left it as a queue!

Simply getting from the velodrome onto the tube took over an hour, again, I dread to think what the congestion will be like in the summer. Hopefully, if it’s walkable, then it shouldn’t be a problem. I also hope that the finish times for different events are staggered so that the demand on the transport links can be spread out.

Though it was my top priority, there was no way to express that on the Olympic ticket application (nor was there priority for members of the relevant organisations) – and so I’ll be watching the track cycling at home in the summer. I’ll be relying on auntie Beeb. Dear BBC, don’t cut the shots so that the viewer can’t keep an overview – especially on points races – you need to get a sense of the whole track!

Adding to my summary of events:

  • Track Cycling.
    <Positives>: Great Atmosphere from the crowd. Guy on PA was excellent.
    <Negatives>: A bit too warm for punters (I don’t see a fix for this, but they organisers should forewarn people). If sent for a drink, can’t see action, so put small screens on back of big screen. Loos were non obvious, and inadequate (even for men!). The ergonomics of them were poor as you had to walk across the entrance to dry hands (and it’s a small space). The flooring in the loos shows up every drip when people shake their hands, which doesn’t look good. Access times – it took far to long to get to and from the tube station.

Krytonite D-Lock

I recently acquired a new D-lock (or U-lock), my old ‘masterlock’ had failed with a key stuck un the lock (fortunately, not on the bike). I did contact masterlock – no response.

I need a new lock to complement the AXA Defender for longer stops, and so decided to switch brands from masterlock – I went with a Kryptonite New York U-lock (Evans) (Wiggle).

The lock is currently attached to the bike rack at work. This is because that is far enough, and the lock heavy enough, that I don’t want to be carrying the lock to and fro each time I commute in. The lock has a pretty sturdy looking keyhole cover to protect against the elements.

This does, however, mean that I don’t have a U-lock for use near home. I could get a second one, but then I’d be forever using the wrong key – a minor annoyance, true, but still an annoyance it should be possible to avoid. Kryptonite do a ‘keyed alike’ service, a second lock made to fit the same key. Perfect, yes?


They will only post to addresses in the US and Canada. I understand that there might not be the volume for transatlantic sales to be worthwhile for a one-off, that said it’s rather surprising that, given they sell the lock in the UK, there isn’t a deal with one of the major retailers whereby they can put the ‘keyed-alike’ lock in with a regular shipment.

Great. Grr.

(Now, if there are any US’ians I know who are planning to come to the UK….)

Fitting an AXA Defender lock

For a while I’ve been wanting to fit an AXA Defender lock to my bike, something that was always there and would provide a short term lock whilst I went into a shop. Yes, I would use it in conjunction with other locks for longer term stops, but for visiting my local corner shop it’d be just fine. Though this isn’t true security, the lock also benefits (in the UK) by ‘security through obscurity’ – i.e. thieves don’t see this lock very often. It’s surprising to me that the lock isn’t more widespread, but there it is.

I acquired the lock online with no problems, and it arrived with all fittings, including mounting straps. It is true that these could be cut to detach the lock from frame, but the lock would still be attached to rear wheel (it is for his reason that it is recommended to mount the lock inside the rear triangle, so that rear wheel removal doesn’t leave you with a wheel and no frame).

Congestion at the fitting point

Unfortunately, I had not spotted that I had a cable running in the recommended mounting position – and it had guides brazed onto the frame, so it would not be simply a case of rerouting the cable.

Fortunately, there is a solution.
Continue reading Fitting an AXA Defender lock

London Prepares: Summary of the Events

We’ve been to several Olympic test events over the past few weeks, I thought it’d be helpful if a member of LOCOG stumbles on this to summarise the overall impressions of the events, which is, after all, the purpose of the test events (this is only for events in the first ‘tranche’ of test events)
Continue reading London Prepares: Summary of the Events