Tuesday, 31 July 2012

July Wrap

Tour de France 2012

Well, what can be said about the 2012 Tour de France that hasn't already been said before? Nothing really. The cycling blogs, forums, magazines, websites and social media pages go nuts during the TDF and everything that could possible be said, is said. Every assessment of Froom's great form, every opinion of Gilbert's slump, every assertion about Wiggo's boring, but dominating win, and hater has spread his hate about Cadel's failure to go back to back.

I enjoyed the Tour. Yes, it didn't have the excitement of the 2011 edition, with the yellow jersey still uncertain until the second last stage, but only the uninitiated will tell you it was a boring race. The true cycling fan takes pleasure in watching the Tour for the small details. The exhibition of the best-of-the-best in cycling technology, who makes the break and whether it succeeds, the contest for the most aggressive, the youngest rider and highly sought after 'Lanterne Rouge' - the last place.

I love it all, I find it all fascinating. Even if my favourite riders weren't in the mix, or the domination of Team Sky was a bit boring, there was still so much more to keep me tuning in every night and forcing my eyes to stay open, picture the video scene from A Clockwork Orange, that's how I felt - minus the visions of crazy violence, obviously! 

There was some really exciting racing that is for sure. Pinot's solo victory was simply awesome, Voeckler's passion and domination of the polka dot jersey was awe inspiring, the battle of the sprinters was awesome as expected, and it was great to see Griepel and Cav take three wins each. The 2012 edition will surely be marked for the breakthrough performance of Sagan, whose crazy victory salutes will be replayed on TV montages for years to come! And, last but not least, the domination of Sky and the comanding win by Wiggins. Say what you like, he was the strongest and the best man won. The course suited him to a tee and he took full advantage.... so well done to Britains first TDF winner.

The Olympics Road Race

Perhaps even more anticipated by cycling tradgics the world over than the Tour de France, was the Olympics Men's Road Race, held exactly one week after Cav's legendary 300 meter dash on the Champs Elysees. This was a hotly contested race, you could feel that every man wanted it. Cav was the overwhelming favourite and the other international teams were going to pull every move in the book to keep Team GB and Cav from taking home the gold. All this made for a pretty crazy sort of race. The distance, terrain and difficultly was something akin to the 2010 Geelong World Champs course, but with no race radios, the peloton was really sketchy.

The break was huge - with about 28 quality riders, and team GB left their surge way too late. The break succeeded and in the final k's, when the main contenders in the break were hesitating, bloody Vino saw an opportunity and went for it. I reckon a Vinokourov win was about the last thing that race organisers, the peloton, and cycling fans around the world wanted to see. He's a convicted drug cheat and there's something strange and dodgy in those beady little eyes. How he did it, we'll never know, and the rest of the field will be left wondering what could have been for years to come.

What was really weird to me was the lack of a challenge from the rest of the break???? They just let Vino, Kristoff and Uran take the medals, after 250km's of hard riding it seems they didn't even try to contest the win. IOt was brilliant to see one of my all-time hero's, Stuey O'Grady, be right there at the end, but it looked like he didn't even try to bridge the gab to Vino! Sixth was good - but c'mon, he could have got a medal! And I must admit, a little piece of me really did want to see Cav take gold. He is the fastest man in the world and I love the way he goes about it. It would of been awesome to see him bring home the bacon in front of a home crowd.  

Monday, 23 July 2012

The Publicity Caravan

You can dissect any part of the Tour de France and inevitably you’ll find it steeped in tradition. The French are a passionate people and they have respect for the way things have always been done. That is part of the reason we still see the phenomenon that is known as the Caravan, well, that and the fact that big money is involved!

The Caravan is the collective name for the horde of publicity floats, cars, trucks and of course, caravans, that roll along the race route each day, before the race comes through. According to the official TdF website, the Caravan begun in 1930 when the then race director, Henri Desgrange, became frustrated with the hold the various cycling brands had on the race. To break their domination he made the cyclists all use the same equipment, and race for national teams, as opposed to corporate sponsored ones. A great idea - but this left the corporates out in the cold, and no sporting event can survive without some sort of support from the fat cats. To get around this Desgrange came up yet another novel idea. Desgrange encouraged cars and bikes and other various types of vehicles covered in marketing messages to drive the route before the race, for a fee of course. And so, the publicity caravan was born.

It was not until the 1960’s that teams were again allowed to be sponsored by companies, but by that time the publicity caravan had become a part of the Tour de France that was just as important as the iconic yellow jersey or the Col de Tormalet. Fans now lined the streets in their tens of thousands not just to see the race, but to see that spectacle that is the Caravan. Children eagerly await the goodies that are thrown from the floats, and adults get a kick from the colourful and imaginative floats that pass by.
The period between the 1930’s and 1960 was the heyday of the Caravan, this was the time before television, when companies used whatever means possible to promote their wares. This was the time when the Menier Chocolate Company threw out tons of chocolates to the eager crowds and the time when Cinzano, the aperitif company, hired acrobats to wow the crowd.

And of course there are many tales associated with the publicity caravan, some true, and some are extravagant embellishments of events that may or may not have happened; but all add to the romance of the Tour. For example, there is the tale of the French accordionist, Yvette Horner, who entertained the crowds as she sat atop her Peugeot van and played her typically French café-style music for many years in the 60’s, and who became such an icon that she was given the prestigious responsibility of awarding the yellow jersey at the conclusion of the days racing. And unfortunately there have even been a couple of deaths associated with the caravan, like that of Melvin Pompele, a seven year old boy who was struck by one of the vehicles in the caravan when he ran out onto the road. 

Nowadays, the publicity caravan is an integral part of the Tour. The caravan provides an essential revenue stream for the Société du Tour de France, and the spectacle makes the event a more attractive drawcard for tourists, which is beneficial for the French economy.
A survey revealed that 39% of people come to see the race primarily for the caravan, which typically provides about 45 minutes of entertainment. And why not? They get to see brightly painted floats, get loads of free stuff, see life-size cartoon characters from the latest Hollywood blockbusters and see some of the strangest contraptions on four wheels in the world, and as an added bonus, if they stick around afterward they get to see the worlds best cyclists doing battle in the worlds biggest bike race!

Monday, 16 July 2012

Rest Days

There are some pretty amazing statistics associated with the Tour de France. This year the competitors will cycle 3,479 kilometres over 21 days, during this time they will burn an average of 6000 calories per day and put an incredible strain on their bodies. Many will fall and get back up and keep on cycling, many will push through pain and muscle strains, and many will simply drop out due to sheer exhaustion. It’s a tough event, there’s no denying it, it’s an incredible human feat to just finish a Tour de France; this is why the race is so famous.

But the cyclists do get some respite over the three weeks. Two rest days are scheduled into the three-week race, this year the first comes after the stage 9 individual time-trial, and the second comes after the relatively short and flat 15th stage. After sticking to a strict racing routine for so many days, after so many hours in the saddle, and after living off protein bars, energy gels and carbohydrate loaded isotonic sports fluids for so long, what exactly are the cyclists meant to do on a rest day?    

If it were me, I know exactly what I would be doing. I’d place the ‘do not disturb’ sign on my hotel door, grab myself a bucket of KFC chicken, and then sleep the day away! Unfortunately, the TdF cyclists don't get to enjoy this level of self-indulgence, and eating whatever they please is definitely off the cards. Afterall, it was a rest day back in 2010 when Contador supposedly ate a steak, that came from a clenbuterol addicted cow, that led to his failed drug test.

The cyclists will continue their strict diet of carefully prepared foods that are assembled by team cooks, under strict instruction from team nutritionists and physicians. On a rest day, if anything, they will eat a little more than usual to re-stock their calorie ‘bank’. For example, a 180km stage will require ingestion of approximately 5500 calories, if a rider fails to take on enough food during the days riding (say, 4000), they may finish the race ok but their bodies will ‘remember’ the remaining 1500 calories that were not ingested. Continual under-eating will build up and the rider will eventually exhaust all their energy stores, effectively ending their Tour campaign.

The day will be spent adjusting game plans and going over future tactics. Physically, the team directors will allow their riders some moments of reprieve on a rest day, they will get to catch up on a little sleep and they will spend time with team masseuses and medics, easing strained muscles and treating their various war-wounds. However, there is no real time for true lengthy rest during a TdF, and yes, you guessed it, a ride is a must. The teams will gather for a two-three hour formation ride, keeping an easy pace, but one that would still leave any weekend warrior for dead. To stay off the bike would be to send the wrong message to the body.

Though, there are some exceptions to the rule. Many will remember the horrific crash during stage 9 of the 2011 TdF involving Johnny Hoogerland, Juan Antonio Flecha and a sideswiping French television car that left Hoogerland with deep cuts to his legs, requiring 33 stitches. Luckily for Flecha and Hoogerland, the following day was a rest day, which would have been spent tending to their various cuts and bruises – there would have been no cycling for them that day.  

And, as there always is with with all facets of the TdF, there are tactics and politics that come into play on the rest days. With the intense eyes of the French press and the worlds media watching, the cyclists will make sure that they go for a decent ride on the rest days, even if they are hurting, as a show of strength. They want to show their competition that their legs are fresh - even if the truth of the matter is quite the opposite.
A rest day on the 1930 Tour de France
 Also, there’s the matter of the media obligations for the jersey wearers. On a rest day it is expected that the current holders of the various jerseys will spend much of the day talking to sports journalists from all over the world. They are singled out as the Tour’s current leaders, and with that comes some responsibility - of course those responsibilities can be shirked, but cycling is a sport of tradition and to do so would be counter to the long-standing customs, and therefore, unsportsmanlike. The French press, in particular, can be ruthless when it comes to matters of tradition, and many a cyclist has been burned on the pages of L’Equipe, for acts even less trivial than ditching an interview.

These responsibilities are an unwelcome distraction from the tasks at hand on a rest day, ie. recovery, planning and rehabilitation. Therefore, it is not uncommon for cyclists to delay their attempts at taking control of the GC till after a rest day. Last year it was widely reported that Cadel was more than happy to have Voeckler retain the maillot jaune for this exact reason.    

But all of this is inconsequential, what really matters here is that we get a night off, and a well-earned chance to catch up on some sleep!

Saturday, 7 July 2012

The Director Sportif

In honour of the Tour de France, I thought I'd publish some posts explaining some of the finer details of the Tour, this piece explains the integral role of the Director Sportif. 

Picture this hypothetical, Wiggins is leading the Tour de France by 35 seconds, followed closely behind by Nibali. It is stage 12, a medium mountain stage and the main players are at the head of the peloton. With about 40km’s to go, Wiggins gets a puncture and drops back to replace the wheel. The replacement takes some time and although he has two helpers to get him back in the mix, it takes a while to get back to the head of the peloton and he expels a lot of energy in doing so. Nibali sees this and goes on the attack on the Cote d’Ardoix, quickly opening up a sizable gap on the peloton. What does Wiggins do? Who makes the decision? The answer – the Director Sportif.

Sometimes also called the Sporting Manager, the Director Sportif (DS), is in charge of the team. They are the ones that will make all of the decisions surrounding the team, right from training techniques to tactical decisions on the road.

Much like a football coach on game day, all twenty-two DSs will sit down with their team prior to each stage and discuss the aim of the day. They will encourage and push their riders and they are usually master tactictions, using their intelligence and guile to out-manoeuvre their rivals. Many of the current DSs are former pro cyclists themselves, familiar with the mind games, the strategies and the inner workings of the peloton.

photo by roblisameehan
During the race the DSs will ride in the team car with the driver (who is usually another team official), and a team mechanic will be in the back. From the passenger seat of the team car the DSs use whatever means or technology is available to them to improve the positioning of their riders. They are in constant communication with their team, informing them of upcoming hazards, time gaps, terrain differences and mechanical issues. Perhaps most importantly, through the radio, they are able to make calculated decisions in crucial situations, like the scenario described above.

In the above hypothetical, the DS of Wiggins’ Team Sky, Sean Yates, an accomplished cyclist in his own right, would be on the radio to his men, instructing them on whether to chase down Nibali, or concede the time and make it up in a later stage.

Interestingly, a similar situation actually happened in last year’s Tour on stage 18, the 198.4 km grueling race from Pinerolo to Galibier - Serre Chevalier. Andy Schleck attacked early in the stage leaving the other contenders (primarily Evans) surprised and confused by how to counter this move. In hindsight it was a brilliant strategy. Schleck knew that the GC's would stick to his wheel like glue on the final climb - the only way to get a significant time gap was to roll the dice and go early. His gamble paid off and he took more than 2 minutes off Cadel. What was equally amazing about this stage was Cadels response. He looked at the others to help claw back the time Andy had taken (which was over 4 minutes at its peak), the other big names chose to be ticket collectors and suck his wheel. Cadel steeled his resolve and dragged the peloton along himself - bridging the gap by half and it was here that he ultimately saved his Tour. In this situation, Team BMC’s DS, John Lelangue, would have been in his teams ear directing them on exactly how to counter Schleck’s bold move.

Cadel Evans and John Lelangue

Another point to note is that teams will often have some designated ‘deputies’ on the road. The DS ultimately has control, but some teams with experienced racers on their books will designate these individuals as ‘Road Captains’. Guys like Stuart O’Grady and George Hincapie are given this type of responsibility as they command a lot of respect in the peloton and have a wealth of knowledge. George and Stuey may never win a Tour, but their instructions on the road will be worth their weight in gold for their teams GC contenders.

These ‘Road Captains’ will often have a strong bond with their respective GC champions, it is quite obvious that Hincapie and Cadel get along very well. Similarly, the DS’s also from strong bonds with their champion riders often partnering up for many years, creating a consistent winning combination. Like the legendary pair of Cyrille Guimard and Bernard Hinault, and Johan Bruyneel’s partnership with Lance Armstrong (all controvery aside!). Who know’s, If Cadel brings home the yellow again in 2012, the combination of Lelangue and Evans may be another for the pages of history! 

The Big Show

The Tour de France 2012 Edition. 

Well, it's winter here in Melbourne. It's cold, and wet, the days are short and getting up in the morning and biking to work is getting harder and harder. BUT - with July comes the Tour de France, so it's not all bad. Every year the Tour gets bigger and bigger and this year is no exception. The race for the yellow jersey is wide open, despite what the mainstream media says - it's not just between Cadel and Wiggins, there are quite a few who could take yellow. The course is well planned, with a good mix of sprint, medium and big mountain stages and time-trials. The only thing that is missing is the team time-trial. I love the TTT! Lets hope it comes back in 2013! So lets look at favourites for the green and yellow jerseys.

Yellow: The big favourite is the great saviour of British road racing, Bradley Wiggins. Wiggo has a bit too much hype surrounding him if you ask me. My money is still on Cadel to back up his 2011 win. He's experienced, he knows how to win, he's timed his peak form perfectly and his team is 100% dedicated. It'll take a lot to beat Cadel. Other possibilities are Hesjerdal, Menchov, Gesink, Rojers, Sanchez, Schleck (Frank) and Van Den Broeck. It really is wide open. My pick, apart from Cadel, is Vincenzo Nibali. He's a class act, and he'll be right there in the 3rd week, mark my words. And, if you want to lay a bet down, they're offerring some pretty good odds for Nibali too! 

Green: The battle for the Green jersey is going to be action packed this year. The last few years have been a bit stale. Last year it was the Cav show, he had it in the bag from week one. This year we have the biggest selection of world-class sprinters we've seen for many years. Some of the names include Cavendish, Petacchi, Goss, Greipel, Van Hummell, Renshaw, Farrar and Freire. We are going to see some of the best spinting we've seen in a long time - certainly the best this season, as the Tour is the first race we've seen a field like this come together. And don't forget the new wonderkid on the block, Peter Sagan, at 22 he's as green the lush grass of Normandy, and with his power it might just be green that he heads home with.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Bike storage for apartment living?

There are many bike storage options out there, as I have recently found out. The recent theft of two of my bikes has encouraged me to re-assess the way I store my bikes and to invest in a more theft-proof solution. Taking into consideration that I live in an apartment block with no basement storage solutions, I was looking for something that would be space saving and would cleverly utilise the small space I do have. Here are some of the options I looked at:

Small shed: Available from most hardware stores for about $200-$600 these sheds are small enough to fit in any carpark alloted space. They are lockable and would be a great deterrant against potential thieves. On the downside, they are fairly flimsy, any potential thief with some tools could break into one of these sheds pretty easily. Also, they are pretty small, you could possibly get two bikes in there, but it would be a tight fit.

The Bike Box: I was put onto this Australian company after I posed the storage question in an online cycling forum. This company makes bike boxes specifically for apartment basement carparks. Having not seen one in person I can only comment on what I saw on the website. They seem to be very well made and they look very secure; a thief would struggle to get inside one of these boxes. The downsides? One word - cost. These boxes are seriously expensive, you wont get much change from $1000!

Outside on the balcony:  Obviously this option is only available to those apartment dwellers who have a balcony. There are many waterproof bike covers on the market which could protect your bike from the elements, but for someone who uses their bike daily, this is not really a viable option. Taking my bike through my apartment every day and re-covering it up would get frustrating very quickly.

Inside: If you are lucky enough to have some spare room indoors you could try to keep your bikes inside. There are a few problems with this solution: 1. you could really upset others that live with you! 2. you could constantly be trudging mud and grease through the apartment, and 3. if you have many bikes, you could lose a lot of space, and for apartment dwellers, space is priceless. If you do go down this path, there are many solutions for storing the bikes, such as hooks, pully systems, bike stands and bike towers.

So which solution did I take up? Well, I have three bikes, and I'm planning to buy a fourth. There is no way I could get four bikes into a small shed or box, so putting the bikes in the spare bedroom was the only viable option. To make them as neat as possible and to try not to take up too much room, I decided to build my own four bike tower. I'd seen bike towers for sale for about $300, but I knew I could build something similar much cheaper. I ended up purchasing all the materials for about $50, and it took about 6hrs to build. It is working so far, and my wife seems to not be too upset with the situation! I have posted some photos below of the tower... it may be ugly... but it works!

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Hell comes to Melbourne

The 2012 Melburn Roobaix

Today, about 4000 cyclists experienced hell in the 2012 edition of the Melburn Roobaix. Modeled on the iconic Paris-Roubaix, the Melburn Roobaix takes cyclists of all types through the inner city streets of Melbourne, seeking out the bumpiest, roughest, muddiest cobbled streets our city has to offer.

It's funny, most days I ride the streets of Melbourne on my road bike seeking out the slickest, smoothest roads available, taking detours around bumps, potholes and rough surfaces; today I rode the streets, seeking out the worst 'pave' possible! I now have a totally new appreciation for the pro's who take on the real Hell of the North each year.

Amongst everything else, this social ride (there are no winners and it is not a race) is a celebration of cycling in Melbourne. All the subgroups are represented, the roadies, the hipsters with fixies, mountain bikers, average commuters, vintage beauties and contraption captains. All riding side by side, helping each other to navigate to the next sector of cobbles.

Credit to Fyxo for organising their 7th successful Roobaix. I had a ball, can't wait till next year to experience Hell again.

Some pics below, damn phone died about midday, so sadly I got nothing from the awards at the Brunswick velodrome.

The start at Hawthorn outdoor velodrome

The Beer Bike - Free IPA for all!

BlueEdge - winners of the prize for best foursome!

Friday, 22 June 2012

Bring back the bike budget

In Victoria, the Baillieu government has been making cutbacks left right and centre, in line with it's ruthless new budget (handed down in May). The education sector has been hit hard, there have been significant TAFE funding cuts and many friends and family have been directly impacted. And now, the Baillieu government has cut all bike infrastructure funding - about $20 million worth. Baillieu hasn't halved the budget; he's cut it fully... to zero. It is a drastic move, and one that has made me, and many other Victorians angry.

As we know, cycling popularity is growing along with our population. This creates increased need for bike infrastructure, and things had been going along well. Funding has been steadily increasing over the past few years, and now, nothing. More and more people are now commuting by bicycle, I myself have noticed a significant increase on my own regular routes over the last few years. We are now a significant minority. A minority that pays it's taxes, and deserves money to be spent on us.  

One of the frustrating things for me is that we still don' know why. What is the master plan for this Liberal government? What are their plans? Why the cuts in some sectors and the blatant overspending in others? This is a government of contradictions - and no one, especially Baillieu, is willing to explain the master plan to us - the taxpayers.

And come on - it's ONLY $20 million, by national and international finance standards this is a paltry amount.

Bicycle Network Victoria has been leading the fight against the budget cutbacks, speaking to media, getting information about the loss of funding out to it's 50,000 members, and generally doing a comendable job of letting the government know that they have made an extremely bad decision.

A rally was held on Thursday morning on the steps of parliament to take a stand against the cuts, and I wished I could of been there... but the cold and the rain got the better of me, and an extra half an hour of snoozetime ended up being the better option. I bet there were many others in the same boat - take note BNV! Make your rallies at lunchtime or in the evening!

Anyhow, this by far the end of the matter. We must stand united against these cuts and show the government that they have failed their bike riding constituents. Photo of the rally and BNV media release/article included below - all courtesy of the BNV website.

Thousands of Victorian bike riders will jam the steps of Parliament later this month to condemn the Baillieu Government’s decision to cut funding for bike infrastructure to zero.

Bike riders of all ages and abilities from across the political spectrum are planning to send the loudest and clearest possible message to the Baillieu Government that bike funding must be reinstated.

Bicycle Network Victoria is inviting every person who rides a bike and cares about the safety of our streets to attend the before-work rally on Thursday, 21 June to express their outrage at the Baillieu snub.

The 2012 Budget papers show the government has allocated zero funding to the VicRoads Bicycle Program. (Some already-announced commitments from previous budgets are still trickling through. The Baillieu Government is trying to hide behind these carry over items.)

No high priority infrastructure projects planned for next year have been funded and desperately needed lanes, signals, intersections and other urgent safety improvements have been scrapped. The decision will increase the level of risk for existing riders and stop new riders joining in an activity that improves community health and cuts congestion.

“We’re urging all bike riders to gather on the steps of Parliament to tell the Baillieu Government that 20 years of bi-partisan support for bike investment cannot be abandoned,” Bicycle Network CEO, Harry Barber said today.

“The massive switch to bike transport in the last decade has significantly reduced road congestion and public transport overload, and all Victorians have benefited.

“More and more Victorians are riding – 1.1 million every week and rising – and a competent government would move to ensure that facilities kept pace.

Bi-partisan support wrecked

"But the Baillieu Government has ignored decades of steady progress by both sides of politics and scrapped funding to the highly-effective VicRoads Bicycle Program.

"The 1.1 million Victorians who ride a bike each week no doubt felt bewildered and abandoned when the news first came through – now they’re finding their voices to express their outrage.

"We want to tell the Baillieu Government that doing nothing on bike infrastructure is not an option," Mr Barber said.

The one year shutdown of the bike infrastructure program rips more than $20 million away from bike facilities investment. And as many studies show money invested in bikes actually reduces the burden on the budget and taxpayers. So rather than saving money, the government's decision is costing us money.

By our calculations, by the end of next financial year the Baillieu Government will be in the red to bike riders to the tune of $25 million.

Cuts will cost, not save

Ultimately this expenditure gap will have to be made up. This will be costly for the government as steady continuous investment is always much more efficient that programs that lurch to a stop and then splutter to a start.

This means the government will need to commit at least $33 million to the VicRoads Bicycle Program in both the 2013-14 and 2014-15 financial years.

"The Baillieu Government's decision to run a bike funding deficit will be costly in terms political support and it will end up costing them more financially than they think they have saved," Mr Barber said.

"The government seems blind to the growing numbers of riders on the streets, are ignoring the number of people that want to join in but are waiting for appropriate facilities to appear and can’t grasp the unique ability of bikes to improve the carrying-capacity of our road network.

“It just isn’t possible to jam more cars down many of Melbourne’s already-jammed roads, and where it is the cost would prohibitive. But what we can do for relative peanuts is move thousands more people down existing roadways just by installing appropriate bike facilities. Thousands are already riding, thousands more want to ride but are waiting for the Government to act – Mr Baillieu, his Government and his zero-bike Budget are letting the Victorians down.

"It’s inevitable the government will come to its senses and get back on track, but it has burned up a huge amount of credibility and goodwill—it will be some time before their claims to be good transport managers will be taken seriously again.”

Sunday, 3 June 2012

The truth about carbs

I am a self-confessed sugar addict, and despite being a pretty keen cyclist, I still do struggle with weight and diet issues. When I'm riding everything evens itself out and I'm able to maintain a pretty healthy weight, but throw a spanner into that mix and it all goes south pretty quickly. With the recent robbery, I found myself off the bike for over three weeks, and even thought this was a short time - my waistline suffered.

This prompted some dieting research and action. I know my problems and I know how to fix them. Basically, I love sweets and chocolate milk, pasta and bread - all of which fall into the category of 'bad carbs'. So, basically I eat too many 'bad carbs' and I really need to replace them with good 'complex' carbohydrates. But I wanted to know why exactly some carbs are bad, when we know that we need them to survive, and we definitely need them to race. I put together the below post to basically summarise what I learned, and I must attribute much of this post to articles from, and Readers, which had some great articles on the topic! Also, I am no health professional, so please don't take what I have here as gospel, and I encourage you to do your own wide-ranging research when trying to work out a diet that is right for you.


Carbohydrates are your body's preferred energy source and are one of the three main macronutrients it needs to function properly. If they are consumed in moderation carbs can provide your body with energy and multiple nutrients. However, excessive consumption of carbohydrates has a number of disadvantages. Forty to 60 percent of your daily caloric intake should come from carbohydrates, but this intake can easily come from ‘good carb’ foods like whole grains, seeds, nuts, fruits and vegetables.

What are ‘bad carbs’?

Bad carbs are white flour, refined sugar, and white rice. More broadly, any food made primarily of a carb that has been processed in such a way as to strip out ingredients that hinder quick and easy cooking. Why are refined carbs a problem? Easy: They digest so quickly that they cause blood sugar surges that lead to weight gain and other health troubles.

Carbs making us slow and tired

All of these bad foods and processed carbs can have an effect on the liver. Our livers can get overloaded with toxins from all of the bad foods we eat. It is suggested by some that the liver can get less efficient at ‘flushing’ these bad toxins out. Overloading our bodies with these bad toxins can have an effect on energy levels and can cause ‘fogginess’ in the brain. Our bacterial flora in our stomachs can also become unbalanced from bad carbs and can also have an effect on energy levels and cause ‘brain fogginess’.

Bad carbs making us hungry

Eating too many carbs causes a large, sudden increase in your blood glucose levels. Your body responds by releasing high levels of insulin which causes a large, sudden decrease in your blood glucose levels shortly after. As a response to these low glucose levels your body sends out hunger signals. The overall effect is that you experience hunger pangs shortly after eating a big serving of carbohydrates even though you have eaten more than enough to provide your body with energy.

Carbs causing cell damage and type 2 diabetes

Consuming excessive levels of carbohydrates on a regular basis can lead to obesity and high blood glucose levels. This has a number of negative implications on your body's cells as high blood glucose levels can damage your nerves, your blood vessels, your heart, your eyes and more. Obesity and high blood glucose levels can increase the risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes.

How to get off bad carbs

Processed carbohydrates, such as white rice, white pastas or white breads, lack many of the fiber and nutrients found in complex carbohydrates such as brown rice, brown pastas and whole-grain breads. To ween the body off refined carbs, gradually decrease the amount of processed carbohydrates you eat and replace them with whole-grain carbohydrates.

Diet changes

Instead of toast, fruit bread, and sweet milk drinks > Eat whole grain cereals, fruit, tea, water

Instead of white bread sandwiches, noodles and pasta > Eat whole grain breads and pita wraps and salads

Instead of rice, pasta and noodles > Eat brown rice, casseroles, meat and 3 veg. Accompany casseroles, pasta sauces and curries with lentils, chickpeas, brown rice or quinoa                                                                

Snacks and drinks
Instead of soft drinks, cordial, fruit juice, milk drinks, chocolate, chips, biscuits, cakes and lollies > Eat fruit, seeds, nuts, and drink water and tea (I find drinking soda water is a great substitute for fizzy drinks)

Giro wrap

Photo by flowizm, Creative Commons licensed.
The 2012 edition of the Giro d’Italia wound up on Sunday night (the 27th May - Australian time). It was a dramatic end to the three-week stage race, with Ryder Hesjerdal only narrowly capturing the pink jersey.

I’m a little late with this post and I don’t have much more to say other than it was a brilliant race and Hesjerdal was awesome. Like Cadel’s first Australian grand tour win in the TdF in 2011, I’m sure this will be huge in Canada and will do massive things for cycling in that country.

I read some news reports in Canadian newspapers and it made me smile to read that the cycling shops, cafés and bars were packed out early in the morning to watch Hesjerdal in the final time-trial. It reminds me of the TdF last year when we were all on the edges of our seats, watching Cadel clench the yellow jersey in the final time-trial.

Hesjerdal’s win just goes to show that nice guys can finish first! I just wish I had some money on Hesjerdal for the win – the odds would have been great!

The course and the race overall was also a victory for the new race director Michele Acquarone. After the tradgedy of Wouter Weylandt’s death in the 2011 edition, and the general rider dissatisfaction with the course, the previous director stepped aside. Taking up the reigns of the race, Michele Acquarone had four objectives; he wanted to make it more fan friendly, safer, international and slightly easier (so riders could also compete in the TdF). I think Acquarone achieved his goals, the start in Denmark gave the race huge exposure, and the well thought out, easier and safer course was also a positive change.

The racing was exceptional also – some of my own highlights I’ve already listed in the previous post. The 2012 World Tour is heating up now as we head into June and there is some great racing to look forward to – particularly the Dauphine.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

It's Giro Time!

For me, this year, the Giro has seemed quite tame. Yes, there have been some great breakaways, some spectacular sprint finishes and some gruelling mountain ascents, but there is something lacking. Compared to the drama of last year’s edition, any tour would seem tame, but for me, this edition has definitely been impacted by the lack of the really big names.

I love watching cycling races where all the big names are there, when everyone is racing to their full capacity, and the one that wins can truly call themselves the best. Unfortunately, because of the way the Pro Tour is set up, the winner of the Giro wont be able to say this. Everyone knows that the race would play out very differently if Andy Schleck was there, or Evans, Sanchez, Van Den Broeck, Wiggins, Nibali, or even Cobo.

The cycling diehards out there will tell me that this is the way it’s always been, and that no true Tour de France GC contender would dare taking a chance on the Giro, in fear of burning themselves out. I know this and I get it. I’m just saying that for the spectator, some of the thrill is lost when the big names are absent.   

I suppose this is one of the reasons why the Tour de France is the biggest race in the world – it attracts the best of the best.

Anyhow, we are now at the pointy end of the race. Cavendish has once again asserted his dominance and taken three stages (and possibly a forth tonight). I was ecstatic to see Gossy pick up a stage win, edging out some of the best sprinters in the world to claim the first Giro stage win for Green Edge. Current race leader, Rodriguez, has taken two dominating stage wins and we’ve seen some brilliant solo victories (in particular from Amador and Rabottini). Taylor Phinney’s domination of the stage one ITT was also a huge highlight, 8.7km’s in 10 minutes and 26 seconds – that’s an average speed of over 50 kmph!

Tonight we should see Cav take his fourth stage win on a relatively flat and short stage 18, and confirm his hold on the green jersey. We will then see the main protagonists of the GC fight it out in the ridiculously hard mountain stages 19 and 20. I never thought he would be able to do it again, but Basso is looking really strong and is a good chance to take his third Giro. Scarponi and Rodriguez are strong chances as well – though they will need to attack fiercely to take some time gaps that will see them safely through the final time trial.

My money? Well that’s on Hesjedal. The big Canadian has a fire in his eyes that screams of his desire to take the overall win. If he can minimise his losses in the next few days he should be able to take the win in the final time trial.  

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

The five stages of grief - what happens when your bikes are stolen

Facebook can be a great thing sometimes. On Friday night I posted this to my news feed, “Just had both my bikes stolen. Thousands of $'s gone. Thanks a lot junkie scumbag commission housing neighbours...” Feeling sad and angry and a bit sorry for myself, I put down the IPad and went to bed and tried to forget the fact that I’d woken last Friday morning to find two of my bikes stolen. The following day, to my surprise, I checked out Facebook and found some messages of condolence for my loss! Some friends had felt my pain and their sympathy somehow made it a little bit better.

Ok, I may have been a bit presumptuous in accusing my financially and socially disadvantaged neighbours, but I needed to let out my anger somehow about the situation. They were MY bikes, I rode them, I worked on them, I cleaned them and most importantly, I PAID for them. These lowlifes had stolen my livelihood.

I wanted to storm the commission block, smashing in door after door until I found them, or spray paint the ugly orange bricks of their hideous 1970’s buildings with the words “GIVE ME MY BIKES BACK YOU JUNKIES”, but I quite like my life, and let’s face it, either of these two acts would have put it in serious danger.

So, Facebook it was – that was my outlet. And it helped. Thanks Facebook, and thanks social media; maybe the Invisible Children are right, maybe those generation Z’ers with their hip 80’s inspired haircuts will find Kony and start a revolution!

Anyhow, I digress. My bikes were a huge part of my life, a huge part of me, like an extension of me somehow. Kind of like a third arm I guess. And they had just taken my arm! Like those that have lost loved ones, and I’m guessing those that have lost arms also, I have since gone through the various stages of grief. There are five I think: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

Denial was fleeting, but it was definitely there. As I stood looking at the empty space where they used to sit I couldn’t believe they were gone, perhaps I’d left them somewhere, or moved them, or sold them? I have been selling a lot of stuff on Ebay lately, it has gotten quite addictive. In a flurry of frenzied Ebay selling, had I flipped my bikes for a tidy profit?

No, I’d not left them anywhere and there was no Ebay sale, a visit to the police station had promptly brought me back to earth.

Later that day I moved to the second stage – anger. Sitting at my desk, fuming, my blood started to boil as I went through all the scenarios in my head about how it had happened, who had taken them and what will become of them. These lowlifes had taken something that didn’t belong to them. They didn’t earn these bikes. They hadn’t worked hard for them. How can someone do this? It made me so angry. And so, in my fit of bottled up rage I did what any self-respecting Aussie male does when truly pissed off – I went got a beer with some mates!  

Right now I’m experiencing a mixture of bargaining and depression. My head swirls around – going back and forth between the two. I bargain with myself, somehow trying to turn this negative into a positive, thinking things like “maybe the insurance company will come through… and if they do, maybe I could use this as an opportunity to upgrade!”

But no matter how I spin it in my head, the huge financial loss is clear as day and that brings me back around to depression, which manifests itself as something like a small child who has dropped their ice cream. Picture the little asian girl in the Hollywood classic ‘The Goonies’ who gets her bike stolen by teen heartthrob Brand…. Yep, that’s me, a little girl, stomping on the floor, yelling “I want my bike, I want my bike.” 

I’m not quite at acceptance yet but I’ll get there eventually…. I hope. I usually get over things by getting thoughts down in words, so yes, you are reading my own version of therapy! A few more angry letters to the police and the body corporate and I’ll be right as rain!

Oh – and yeah, if you see these two bikes anywhere around, please contact me!

Ghost Lector 5800 - A beast of a bike, it will be sorely missed

My trusty workhorse, Fuji Roubaix 1.0 with significant upgrades. Farewell.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

American Flyers - Movie Review

After watching Chasing Legends and A Sunday in Hell (two great films by the way), I was recently inspired to find out what other cycling-related movies were out there. A few Google searches later, I found this blurb for American Flyers on the Bicycling Magazine website, in a list of the 9 greatest cycling movies of all time:

"Pre–Bull Durham Kevin Costner in a mustache is one thing, but Rae-Dawn Chong’s wheel change is the real stunner in this fun story of two brothers who tackle the Hell of the West through the Rockies. Some of the details are ludicrous—the way the Russian pros bob and weave as they attack—but as celebration of the 1980s American cycling scene, with appearances by the 7-Eleven Team and the gone-but-missed Coors Classic, it’s worth your time."

I was hooked. Kevin Costner with a moustache, need I say more?! So needless to say, I sought this out and after a hard day out on the mountain bike I sat down with a beer and re-kindled my love of 80’s cheese. And I wasn’t disappointed.

This movie had it all: moustaches, beautiful flowing 80’s healthy hair, a love story, sports rivalry, montages, a token black man, a lame fight scene, all-star cameo’s (Eddy Merckx no less!), family drama, a health tragedy, a bit of gratuitous nudity and most importantly – awesome 80’s cock-rock. There’s even a scene with that girl from Fame that played Baby! Whatever happened to her career?!

You can’t take this movie too seriously. The story line is a bit lame, and the cycling is questionable. But, if you go into it with an open mind and a satirical mood, you can have fun taking the piss out of the barrage of cringe-worthy one-liners and sudden unexplained plot changes.

As far as the cycling goes, it’s a look back at a bygone era, where the bikes were steel and helmets were for sissies (even the cool sausage helmets). The main character chooses a cowboy hat, rather than risk looking like a dork with a helmet – that look is solely set aside for the ‘evil’ Russian national team! There is some great footage of the old 7-Eleven team, and the fictional race at the centre of the story, the Hell of the West, is based on the epic Coors Classic, which I understand was a brilliant stage-race that drew pro’s from all over the world.   

Overall, it was a fun flick, best enjoyed with your better half. It satisfies you as a cycling tragic, and it’ll satisfy them as a rom/com/drama that provides moment of hilarity with the lame 80’s cliché’s.

I give this one 3 ½ awesome Kevin Costner Moustaches.

Thursday, 26 April 2012


More often than not I find that other cyclists pose more of a threat than cars, motorbikes, trucks, trams and buses on the road! It’s a big call, I know, but when your daily commute includes the Main Yarra Trail, and when you are riding against the majority of the traffic, it is a reality.

It’s all got to do with overtaking. It seems the majority of cyclists out there don’t know how or when to overtake.

In the morning I ride away from the city, and in the evening I ride toward the city, consequently, I am riding into a constant stream of stressed, rabid city workers that are trying to get to work on time in the morning and in the evening they are racing home as fast as possible to get home to catch Charlie on the 7pm Project. On many occasions I’ve almost been cleaned up by some muppett overtaking a slower rider on blind corner. Seriously, my commute is basically a series of near miss head-on collisions!

So please people, pick your overtaking times well, wait for a long stretch of trail where you have ample room and time, and then overtake - just as you would when driving your car. 

Check out the Bicycle Network Victoria website for all the rules, laws and guidelines on safe cycling.

Another problem I see all too often is cyclists overtaking others when waiting at the lights. You know the scenario – you are waiting at the lights and some plonker rides up on his rusty 1980’s Schwinn and heads straight to the front, passing all the other waiting cyclists; the lights turn green and everyone is stuck behind this bloke, waiting for a safe opportunity to pass.

check out the drawing skills... awesome.
Not only is it rude, but it’s unsafe, it forces everyone else further out on the road to overtake. 

Riding up to the front of an intersection at a red light would be fine, if you are a fast, club cyclist, with a lot of experience, and you know that you wont be holding up anyone. If you’re not – just hang back and exercise some patience!

Tell me about your top commuting gripes in the comments below!

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Spotlight on Gerro!

Having found cycling a little later than some, I never really gave myself a chance to find cycling glory, at the age of 29 I started club racing for the first time, and now at almost 31, I do ok, I may even pick up a few placings here and there, but my best days are well and truly behind me - I know that, and I’m ok with it. What I love is when I see cyclists my age really taking it to the younger guys and not just taking it to them, but smashing them! I think this is part of the reason I have developed a serious man-crush on Gerro!

I don’t know much about Simon Gerrans, save for what Wikipedia has told me! Apparently he was born in Mansfield, in Victoria, and he took up cycling after his neighbour, none other than Australia’s first Yellow Jersey wearer, Phil Anderson, convinced him to get on the bike to get over a knee injury!

Over the summer I got to witness Gerro, Australia’s cyclist of the moment, take out the National Road Championships. He burned up the roads of Buninyong, earning himself the right to wear the national colours for the next 12 months, and take the win for the newly formed Green Edge cycling team. This was the start of what I’m sure will turn out to be his best year on the road, since turning professional in 2005.

Soon after the national champs Gerro took out the overall classification at the Tour Down Under (for the second time), and recorded yet another win for Green Edge. There was to be no monkey on the back of Green Edge, no hopelessly waiting around for an elusive first victory, Gerro had other ideas, he effectively gave them a dream start on the 2012 UCI World Tour. 

Then, as our attentions turned toward the one day classics in Europe, Gerro took the win at the Milan – San Remo, outsprinting two of the biggest names in cycling, Nibali and Cancellara. It was a brilliantly calculated ride and surely one of the highlights of his long career.

So often in cycling we see top cyclists battle, year in - year out, to get to the top, to find the form that will write them into the record books. I don’t know why it happens like this, but for some reason at different points in cyclists careers everything comes together and they suddenly go from a talented achiever to a champion. We saw it in 2011 with Phillipe Gilbert. It seems that Gerro has hit one of those elusive white-hot patches in his career and I hope he continues to ride the wave and keep on winning.
Not just ‘cause he’s an Aussie, more because he seems like a great bloke!

And the fact that he’s the same age as me gives me hope that I too can achieve some great things on the bike!  

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

The Online Edge

Apps and Websites for Melbourne Cyclists...

Bay Winds Page – For anyone who rides beach road regularly, this website is a must. We all know how strong the winds are in Melbourne and anything above a 25 knot headwind on beach road is a bit of a pain. This page allows you to monitor the direction of the wind and the strength, in real time. The site is updated fairly regularly, about every 20 minutes I believe, and includes a whole raft of other information including, temperature graphs, rainfall statistics and tidal activity. This is all interesting – and no doubt essential for sailors (who I think the page was originally intended for), but for us cyclists, it’s the wind data that is most useful. The page lacks any bells and whistles, which is refreshing, and helps with load times on mobile devices. I’m not entirely sure who to thank for this priceless resource, the disclaimer states that the page ‘used to be’ hosted by the University of Melbourne School of Earth Sciences, I suspect it is now hosted by some weather obsessed individual! And to them I say thankyou!

Oz Weather App – Ok, this is a bit of a no-brainer, but as my most frequently used app, I have to include it here. Unless you are some sort of sadomasochistic individual that gets pleasure from riding in wind, rain, and hail, most people like to avoid poor conditions if possible. This app allows you to track weather patterns using the radar functions. If poor weather is approaching your can estimate when it’s going to hit and make an educated guess on whether it’s heading for you! This is particularly useful for commuting, you are able to monitor the page and time your ride to or from work so that you miss the worst of the weather. Of course, the app has all those other weather functions that are useful for planning your rides, like long term forecasts for Melbourne and many other Australian cities.

Cycling Profiles Website – This website is simply brilliant, something I wish I’d thought of! The site lists heaps of rides around Melbourne and beyond, when you click on a ride you are given a map and a profile of the ride, with all of the crucial info included; the distance, the elevation, major features to look out for, and the classification, distance and percentage incline of the hills. The site collaborates with many clubs Northern Combine, Brunswick etc.) and social ride organisers (Cycling Victoria, Cycling Australia, Bicycle Victoria), and many professional charity ride organisers (Amy Gillet Foundation, Audax) so If you are doing a mass participation event, there’s a good chance your ride will be on here. The site has the double function of providing a ride calendar, so you can plan which charity/recreational rides you’ll fork over the dough for this year! People can submit their own ride profiles and the rides under the ‘Melbourne Popular’ category are a priceless tool for injecting some variation into training schedules. The site is easy to use and navigate and is regularly updated. With plans to expand the site for other states – I can see the popularity of this site will rapidly grow.

Log Your Ride App – There are a million fitness related apps out there and about half of those are related to logging or tracking your run or ride. This is just another one, but it is one that I’ve found works quite well. It’s relatively easy to use, it has a wide variety of functions and for those stat hungry cyclists – you can track just about everything, including heart rate and post it to your own personalized web page for analysis and gloating! After your ride you can see a map of exactly where you went, your total time, your distance, and your average pace, all of which can be compared to your on-board cycling computer for verification. And, as a little bonus, you can control your music through the app and you can program a chime to sound in your ears every time a kilometer clicks over (this can get a little annoying after while). The app is probably best used for multi-day tours or those closely tracking their training before a big event. Despite all of this, I must confess that I use this app fairly irregularly, and I don’t even try to use it if I know I’m going to be cycling through 3G blackspots (I’m with Vodafail so that means pretty much all of Melbourne!). I’m sure that all of the features listed pale into insignificance when compared to the features of a Garmin Edge, but for those of us without that sweet bit of kit, Log Your Ride is a pretty sweet alternative.

Bicycle Network Bike Event Calendar – There are many calendars available, but I find this one to be the most comprehensive. If you are like me, and you want to limit the amount of recreational or charity rides you do per year (mainly ‘cause they are so expensive!), this is a great site for helping choose exactly which ones to do. The site does not include competitive club road races and criteriums, you’d have to go to a club website for that sort of thing, but if you want an idea of what sort of community events are coming up – check out this website.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Friday Funny: Mother F*cking Bike!

This is hilarious! I have to acknowledge that I was put onto this from the Age Friday Funnies - Yeah, I don't know what I was doing reading the Age either....

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Jayco Bay Crits Classic Wrap

I was lucky enough to get to stage two and four of the 2012 Jayco Bay Crits Classic. This is an awesome series - showcasing some of the best scenery around Port Phillip Bay. In getting to these two stages I was able to witness first hand young 17yo Caleb Ewen set the series alight with two stage wins. His final kick was awesome to watch - Phil Liggett even remarked "this kid is as fast as Cavendish"!

The winners of the stages were Greg Henderson (state one), Caleb Ewen (stage two), Anthony Giacoppo (stage three), and Caleb Ewen (stage four). A keen cycling fan will notice that this list includes no riders from the new Green Edge outfit, who debuted at the Bay Crits. I know I for one, was expecting the Green Edge team to start filling their 2012 palmares for their new outfit but it wasn't to be! This was definitely a series for the amateures.

All in all, this was another successful Bay Crits series, with all races enjoying pretty decent crowds, except apparently for Portalington - must've been just a bit too far for Melbournites to travel to! Stage two in Geelong was contested in 40 - 45 degree heat. I've never witnessed such gruelling conditions, it was a credit to all who finished.

The womens races were just as exciting as the mens, with the female GreenEdge outfit outdoing their male teammates, taking home the overall yellow jersey (Melissa Hoskings) and the teams classification.

Highlight of the series for me was getting close enough to legend Robbie McEwen to give him a pat on the back and utter "well done Robbie". What a hero, 40 years old and still mixing it with the best! 

Keep an eye out for this weekends Nationals road race - we'll see just how well the GreenEdge boys can perform when the numbers are on their side! Watch it in Ballarat, or plant yourself on your couch and turn to SBS for full coverage!    

Final Results - General Classification


1. Allan DAVIS (Mitchelton Wines/Lowe Farms)
2. Caleb EWAN (NSWIS)
3. Anthony GIACOPPO (Bike Bug)
4. Bernie SULZBERGER (Urban Hotels)
5. Chris SUTTON (Urban Hotels)
6. Greg HENDERSON (Degani Bakery Cafe)
7. Leigh HOWARD (GreenEDGE)
8. Luke DURBRIDGE (Mitchelton Wines/Lowe Farms)
9. Nathan HAAS (Bike Bug)
10. Koen DE KORT (Urban Hotels)


1. Melissa HOSKINS (GreenEdge-AIS)
2. Amanda SPRATT (GreenEdge-AIS)
3. Chloe HOSKING (Total Rush/Hyster)
4. Rochelle GILMORE ( Dream Team)
5. Jessie MACLEAN (GreenEdge-AIS)
6. Annette EDMONDSON (Pitcher Partners)
7. Tiffany CROMWELL (GreenEdge-AIS)
8. Loren ROWNEY (Total Rush/Hyster)
9. Shara GILLOW (GreenEdge-AIS)
10. Grace SULZBERGER (Jayco - AIS)

Is that Heinrich Haussler out in front?!
Allan Davis out in front with Caleb Ewen third
The GreenEdge lead out train on the second last lap
Matty Keenan with Caleb after his second stage win
The Jayco Podium Girls!
GreenEdge Director Andrew Ryan
The Womens winners
Allan Davis enjoying the victory - he funnily offered a swig to 17yo Caleb afterwards
The Mens winners