“Hey 24, if you switch on me again…”, he didn’t finish with the rest of the threat, but whatever. I needed to extricate myself from the slow moving bunch and latch onto the fast disappearing break that was about to crest the top of the hill. This was the defining moment of the race, and politeness and pleasantries were the first casualties. Part of me flinched at the wrongdoing – but only a little part. I accepted the role of villain, gambling that I would emerge heroic at the finish.

The line between hero and villain is lightly drawn, constantly shifting depending on our biased perspectives. Cycling is a sport with wide expanses of grey, and yet it is often painted in stark black and white. For some we forgive and forget, but not for others. The determination to succeed in some is seen as ruthless, in others it’s admired. Some are exulted for their achievements, for others they are grounds for suspicion. Some performances are regarded as unbelievable, and others deemed to be beyond belief. Why this need for heroes and villains? And who gets to decide which is which? Read the rest of this entry »


Hey Guys,

Hope all is well back home. Our trip has been interesting and eventful, although not all of it so enjoyable. But I suppose that’s the price you pay for a sense of adventure!

After a long discussion within our group we finally agreed that we’d take a trip across the Pain Barrier – we’d travelled so close to the border and our curiosity finally got the better of us. Of course we’d all heard the stories; the self-satisfied tales from some far flung land, beyond even the maps of less intrepid tourists. The stories of survival against the odds, of going deeper and deeper into uncertain territory. We wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Read the rest of this entry »

I knew we were in trouble when he turned up to the training ride in a skinsuit, aero booties and with the vents on his helmet taped up. The wind direction had been deemed favourable, temperature and air density agreeable. It was time to go break some Strava records.

If you’re so far unacquainted with Strava, then it’s an on-line repository for all those GPS files and stats accumulated by these new-fangled cycling computers. Every variable is measured and uploaded and converted into a binary facsimile of how any ride – from commute to leisurely jaunt in the countryside – might appear if it were conceived by the makers of The Matrix. A dizzying stream of binary type reconstructing the open road as a line on a map and the curves of a graph.

And as a Garmin GPS device (other brands are available) is now strapped to every second handlebar or stem, it was inevitable all that collated data would be put to good use. And when I say ‘good’ I mean transformed into some sort of petty form of competition and one-upmanship. It’s social media for cyclists, the kind of social media that allows you to spy on your friends and check out how they’ve been riding, how far, how fast, and whether it’s any further and faster than you.

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Is southern California the perfect place to ride your bike? Yes, according to racer and photographer Jordan Clark Haggard. His intimate photographic journal The Blue and Red documents a life of riding and racing to a backdrop of beautiful landscapes, unfinished roads, crashes and punctures. From the epic to the mundane, all of cycling life is captured through the lens.

Give us a brief account of your cycling background. I suppose the story of how I fell in love with cycling is pretty typical. I began riding as a kid and spent a lot of time charging up and down the dirt trails around my house. In high school I saved up enough money to buy a full suspension mountain bike and rode it every day. Then when at college I signed up to the triathlon team and it happened that I was pretty good at it. After graduation I started racing crits and on the road, and though it has its high and low points, bike racing has on the whole been a great experience. At the moment I race Cat 2 on the road. I have bounced from team to team over the years. This season I’ve landed with the Riders One team, which is focused on cycling and sustainability.

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After racing at the top level as a junior, Camille McMillan swapped his bike for the camera to become one of the top cycling photograpers around. Le Métier was published last year, with Camille’s photographs illustrating Michael Barry’s life as a pro, and his work has featured in magazines such as Rouleur and their photography annuals. He is currently embedded with Team Sky for the classics season, shooting and blogging for The Times. The photographs below are from this year’s season openers Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.

Give us a brief account of your cycling background. As a little boy my life was peppered with watching Six Days and the classics. After watching the Worlds at Goodwood I started racing cyclo cross as a school boy. I left school at 16 and signed on, trained, raced my bike and slept. I raced all year round, up and down the country with excursions to Europe.

What made you quit racing and take up the camera instead? I’d been racing and training since I was a kid – my Dad had me out riding behind a motorbike after school. At 20 I was burnt out, living in London and out raving. I won my last race, got home, chucked my bike in the shed and didn’t touch it again for years. I’d been in a race, saw a break form up the road and thought ‘I might as well get in it’ and bridged across – but I was just going through the motions. Then the sprint came and I won. But I didn’t care, all I was interested in was who was coming to the pub afterwards. After I quit I eventually managed to get myself to St Martins College of Art, had some more fun for five years and left with a camera in my hand. The camera is still there… and now so is the bike.

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In these austere times cycling can start to become a burden on your finances – club runs at £25, the privilege of riding local roads with some red arrows painted on the ground for £28, or being persuaded by ‘helpful’ club mates to try latex inner tubes only for them to last half a race before puncturing (equating to about 70km for £8, or 8.75p per km). I suppose you could put this all down to inflation (4.4%!) but that would just be the makings of a poor inner tube related pun.

Fortunately there are many areas of cycling life where it’s possible to make savings – I’ve previously covered thrifty solutions to chamois cream, embrocation and recovery snacks. Now I turn my penny-pinching attention to energy drinks.

Some of you may have laboured under the illusion that water is a satisfactory source of hydration, but being a free and widely available commodity this is not something either myself, the cycling media or the cycling industry can endorse. If it hasn’t got a little picture of a man on a bicycle on the packaging and is exclusively available only from specialist suppliers, then I’m afraid it’s not suitable for the serious cyclist.

Fortunately there is a third way. Jim Ley, club run hero and previous contributor to this blog, has put together a recipe of powders that can be mixed together and then added to water – homebrew energy drinks if you will.

Think of it as like buying components for your bike, but rather than relying on the bike shop to do the mechanical work, you grapple with spanners and allen keys and sort it yourself. In addition to frugality, this approach allows you to customise your recipes, add specific ingredients, and then tell anyone who’ll listen about why off the shelf products aren’t suitable for a serious endurance athlete (such as yourself). In short, it’s yet another opportunity to indulge your racing cyclist’s superiority complex and to sneer at Sportivists still paying through the nose for overpriced drinks.

Both these recipes work out at under £5 for 1kg – which equates to about the third of the price of SiS, Torq, High5, Lucozade and various others.

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‘Labrador’ illustration by Philip Deacon. Check out his website www.philipdeacon.co.uk for more witty cycling related artwork and prints available to buy.

I remember the dog very well. It was a yellow dog, a boxer. I remember I was the last to see him alive because I was the one who hit him. At the same moment, I felt my front wheel give way and my handlebars twist against my left arm. I felt the breeze from the peloton, opening up and yelling all around me, and then I woke up, sitting on the Longchamp pavement, trying to scratch my phone number in the sand, in case I passed out again. Paul Fournel, ‘Need for the Bike’

Like most cyclists I prefer the predictable.

I like weather that is warm and sunny and stays that way. I dislike sunny days that change their mind halfway through and choose to be petulant little brats and start raining on you.

I like cars that indicate they’re about to turn, and then actually turn the way they’ve indicated. And dislike car doors that suddenly swing open on you.

I like the reduced odds of a breakaway rather than the lottery of bunch sprints.

I don’t like children who run up to the curb and are only stopped from venturing further at the final moment by a firm parental grip.

And I don’t like dogs.

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Photography from Rapha women’s collection

Hi ‘In the Saddle’,

A friend of mine kindly brought to my attention your blog post ‘To that roadie girl…’. Unfortunately I think it might be about me.

I do ride to work about that time, but I’m not one of those hipster types working in some digital agency or design studio pushing little blobs of colour around a screen all day. I actually have a proper job, and I certainly don’t ride a fixie. In addition to my Colnago I have a Cervelo P2 with Dura Ace.

In fact it was guys like you who convinced me I’d be better off racing triathlon. You roadies are like Neanderthals, so unused to seeing girls riding bikes that you practically fall over your handlebars trying to impress and chat them up. And here’s a newsflash – giving someone the benefit of your infinite ‘cycling wisdom’ is not the effective seduction technique you seem to think it is. I don’t care what you think about my cadence, or what gear I should be in, or if my stem is too short or too high. Plus most of you lot are still ‘riding on feel’. I mean, come on! It’s 2011! Get a power meter, or at least a heart rate monitor – and please, learn to use it!

Tri guys are totally cool – they train hard and have focussed goals, and combine their sporting achievements with demanding careers. My boyfriend is a corporate lawyer and is one of the top triathletes in his age category, plus all the swimming and running he does gives him a really hot body. Triathlon guys aren’t stick thin wimps, obsessed with every ounce of food that passes their lips like a teenage girl. Pigeon-chested cyclists are really not my cup of tea. And if you thought I looked good in lycra, well you should see me in a swimming costume.

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