Tour de France 2015 Stage 8: it’s Mûr, not The Mur

I’m really looking forward to this year’s Tour de France Stage 8, Rennes to Mûr-de-Bretagne. I’ve seen the uphill finish before, in 2011, and in 2015 the route is even more accessible for me, starting just 30km from where I will be staying, and making its way through an area I know well.

Mûr de Bretagne climb

The climb at the finish is steep and you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s name means the ‘wall of Brittany’, in a similar fashion to the Flandrian bergs such as the Muur de Geraardsbergen. Fans are more likely to be confused give that the Mur de Huy is the uphill finish a few days earlier on Stage 4, in the French-speaking Walloon region of Belgium.
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2015 Davie Bell

Scottish Road Champs, and the last Davie Bell

I heard on the Cycling Podcast  this week that this weekend’s road champs will also be the final edition of the Davie Bell road race.

Pocast host Richard Moore has been invited in a VIP capacity as a former winner. It’s a monument of Scottish cycling with a roll call of greats including Robert Millar, David Millar (no not that one), Jason McIntyre and pretty much everyone else who has had any success professionally or at the top of the amateur ranks.

“How come I didn’t know about this?!” I wailed. Chris Johnson did great publicity for the race in previous years, especially when the gravel sectors were included and when there was an appetite to step up to National A or even Premier status.

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Grass track cycling keeps you young

Grass track season starts in May, which reminded me of Hugh Johnstone, who took part in the retro exhibition race, a few days shy of his 80th birthday, at the Scottish circuit  championships held in Stirling last August.

Hugh Johnstone

His frame was built in the 1953 by George Elrick, a frame builder who was based in Lower Bridge Street in Stirling up until the 70s –  a steel single speed frame with extra tyre clearance and a higher bottom bracket. Continue reading

Hat tip to Robbie Hassan

Robbie Hassan announced recently, on his blog, that he was hanging up his racing wheels.

Robbie was a Braveheart funded U23 rider who moved to Spain to race full time and have a real go at making it as a pro bike rider. He is someone who I have followed since getting into road cycling in 2008 and starting this blog so I wanted to tip my hat to his career, even if it has ended before he reached the goals he would have wanted.

The impact of a 12-week knee injury on top of struggles against health an allergy setbacks have led to the decision to call it a day.

As I followed the local racing scene in 2009 and 2010, Endura were dominating with a strong squad of all the best Scottish riders including Oliphant, Hand, McCallum, Lines and Creber. I celebrated any club rider who could get a result against them and got myself into trouble once or twice trying to stir up light-hearted banter on twitter that got taken badly.

Robbie Hassan
Disappointed with 5th in the Scottish champs 2010 behind 4 Enduras  Continue reading

Davie+Lines+image+by+Martin+Young640

Davie Lines – The (fire)man who would be king

Orinally published in the Dig In At The Dock 2014 programme in January, this piece, by David Hamill, looks back on Davie Lines’ 2013 cyclocross season and celebrates his choice as honorary reigning Scottish series champion.

Bike racing is a cruel sport. Most people who race bikes never win and those who do win will more often lose. Losing (or not winning) is something even the best bike racers need to get used to. It’s part of the sport. The history books don’t provide a great deal of discussion about who came second, third or fourth. If they did Davie Lines might be a bit of a legend.

Davie Lines works as a firefighter in Edinburgh and also races bikes for Starley Primal. If you were to assign Davie a specialism in bike racing it would probably be criterium road racing. As a past Scottish champ he’s got plenty of results to back this up. But to badge Davie a crit rider is to do him a disservice. He competes on the road, on the track and in cyclocross and he does this all at a very high level.  Continue reading

Dig Deep Coaching – cyclocross race tips

Dig Deep Coaching logo

Dig Deep Coaching comprises former pro riders Stephen Gallagher and Dan Fleeman, with Mandy Collie providing business expertise to the team.

The company works closely with National cyclocross champion Ian Field, who was up in Fife recently for a two-day training camp organised by some of the Team Leslie Bike Shop / Bikers Boutique people.

<a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/dnet/5118551127″ title=”Ian Field &amp; Eddy van IJzendoorn by E. Dronkert, on Flickr”><img src=”https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1363/5118551127_9eddc57808_z.jpg” width=”640″ height=”400″ alt=”Ian Field &amp; Eddy van IJzendoorn”></a>

Dan and Ian released a webinar entitled ‘Cyclocross Season – Time To Get Ready‘. The 1-hour presentation comprises audio and slides covering a vast array of tips to get more out of your cyclocross racing, including equipment choices, skills drills and training sessions.

I have always enjoyed absorbing as much of this sort of information I can during the past 5 years racing. While it’s always enjoyable and sociable to just go out and ride with clubmates, I found that doing working on my own (to heart rate, although power is better) with specific training sessions, and focusing on structured high intensity interval sessions allowed me to get the best race fitness while juggling the finely balanced work/family/cycling equation.

Tips from the Two Johns Podcast, Coach Joe Beer Podcast and Joe Friel’s website added to my knowledge over that time and I highly recommend the webinar above. If you want to take things further, Dig Deep Coaching offer 6 and 12 week training plans for cyclocross.

A friend of mine, based in rural Aberdeenshire, found that his connection speed was too low to run the webinar, so for his benefit and that of others, I’ve summarised the key points below. Continue reading

Talking cyclocross with Sporza’s Renaat Schotte

Renaat Schotte works for Sporza on Belgian TV and is often found reporting from the motorbike during one day classics and grand tours, or from the pits during ‘cross races. Fellow blogger Andrew Rafferty managed to catch up with him for a piece for the Dig In At The Dock race programme last January.

AR: I asked him why cyclocross is so popular in Belgium.
RS: ‘There has been a continual process of professionalising and modernising. More so than other countries who were also traditionally strong at cross, like Spain and Switzerland. And as popularity increased and crowds grew, the races got bigger and riders became more successful, which increased the popularity and so on. A virtuous cycle.’

Is it fair to say that it’s a not a Belgian thing, but a Flemish thing?
‘Yeah, it’s not an exaggeration to say that. The races held this year in Walloonia (the French speaking part of Belgium) are actually organized by Flemish! And all other races organized by Walloons in the past have been cancelled.

Cyclocross is part of Flemish life, like speed skating in Holland or Skijumping in Germany.’
Or bagpipe playing in Scotland?

‘Exactly, ha ha.
Look at how things have changed on the TV. In the early 90s you could watch maybe six races a year. Now its three or four times that, with bpost, superprestige, World Cup and National and World Championships. Plus numerous standalone races. It’s getting bigger.

BK Veldrijden 2013 Mol

We see the same thing here in Scotland, albeit on a smaller scale as the number of races, participants and spectators grow. And many people watch Sporza broadcasts online. Can you give your Scottish viewers some key words to listen out for?

Greppel (chreppel) means ditch and Beek (bake) means burn or stream. You should hear them in most races. Zandstrook (zandstroke) means sand section like at Koksijde.

(Or Irvine!) Continue reading

“Dummy Jim” from Scotland to the Arctic circle

Filmmaker Matt Hulse has produced a biopic of deaf Aberdeenshire cyclist James Duthie, known as “Dummy Jim”, who cycled solo from Scotland to the Arctic circle in 1951.

The film is touring Scotland, starting at the Glasgow Film Theatre on 6th July, going around the North and North East, and finishing at the Edinburgh Film Festival on the 17th.

It weaves fiction, documentary, animation and archive to explore the eccentric adventures of profoundly deaf Scots long-distance cyclist James Duthie who hailed from the close-knit Aberdeenshire fishing community of Cairnbulg and Inverallochy. In 1951, he set out on a lone cycling tour to Morocco. After three months of pedalling, he reached the Arctic Circle. “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” 12 years in the making, Hulse crafts a multi-layered memorial to a quietly determined maverick and the community that shaped him, with present-day village inhabitants emerging as creative participants. Deaf actor Samuel Dore leads.

From Matt Hulse on Vimeo.

Read more on STV Aberdeen:

Duthie kept a detailed journal of his marathon voyage and meticulously chronicled his myriad experiences. His original intention was to set off for Morocco.

But, as the trailer for the film points out, he never made it.

Instead, a much more dramatic scenario unfolded as the deaf Buchan cyclist entered a completely different world from anything he had experienced before.

“He was one of those adventurous souls who was very curious, very determined, and never let anything get in his way, and that was inspiring,” said Hulse.

“When you think that he was profoundly deaf and growing up in a small community in the 1930s and 1940s, this must have been a huge step for him to take.

“But, although things didn’t always go to plan and he faced difficulties, I like the idea of this wonky cyclist persevering and doing things his way.”

http://tour.dummyjim.com/

When wheel changes were not allowed

Found on the blog of former BLRC track and road rider Alf Buttler comes this story from the 1954 Tour of Ireland.

I was on the motorcycle and had with me a new pair of wheels that I had built complete with freewheel and tyres, we fitted these on the rear carrier with only three toe straps (very like Mavic do now for mountain stages and/or time trials in the big tours on the continent). Outside the headquarters we found the Scottish team in deep conversation near our Ariel… their manager, who we took an instant dislike to, said ‘you cannot carry them wheels its against the rules’. Where are these rules? we asked, he could not produce any. But the next day before the start of the race he got the commissionaires to get us to remove the tyres as it gave us an unfair advantage. This silly way of going on went on for at least 2 years because in the Peace Race the following year no team was able to fit a wheel complete. If a rider punctured he had to change his own tyres. This rule was changed by U.C.I for 1956

A recap of the race by Jock Wadley for The Bicycle is recorded for posterity on the excellent historical website Tour-Racing.co.uk.

Scotsman John Kennedy, riding for the Scotland team, was second on the first stage, which was won solo by Bernard Pusey, riding for the England “A” team. Kennedy kept his place on GC after stage 2, where breakaway men Shay Elliott and Stan Brittain were caught a mile from the line.

He disappears from the top 10 in the stage 3 results and given that only 15 of 108 riders finished, you can assume that if a crash or a mechanical had not ruled him out on this stage, he would have been one of the 59 abandons on a snowstorm-hit stage 6.

An R. Mackay of the Scotland was 14th on the final GC, but he wasn’t the only Scot to finish – John Burrowes of the VC Stella rounded out the classification in 15th (and last). His teammate, Ron Park was 6th, albeit 30 minutes down.

Tour-racing’s recap is a good read, including such drama as a runaway horse and cart which led to the death of a rider, the snowstorms and mass abandons, and a neutralised final stage.