Opinion: A line in the sand

I don’t know Thomas Kerr at all. He may be a wonderful guy, or a complete knuckle head. I wouldn’t have the foggiest either way. What I do know is earlier today, in a decision with ramifications far greater than his individual case, he was sentenced in the Downing Centre District Court to spend at least 18 months in jail after pleading guilty to the well-publicised collision on Sydney’s Southern Cross Drive last March that left a bunch of cyclists in a very bad way in hospital. I don’t wish ill towards any individual, Kerr or otherwise. I’m sure the 28-year old is hurting right now, as are his family and friends. Pleading guilty to four counts of dangerous driving occasioning grievous bodily harm and three of causing bodily harm by misconduct, Kerr expressed considerable remorse in court yesterday and I don’t doubt his sincerity for a moment. His legal team offered no defence for the incident, saying the only possible explanation was a momentary lapse in concentration by their client. Again, there’s no reason to suggest this is anything but the truth. But there are some suggesting his sentence is over-the-top, heavy handed, somehow bowing to the cries for blood from the Sydney cycling lobby. To them I say, sorry, but are you out your minds? No reasonable Sydney cyclist is ‘celebrating’ the judge’s decision today, or the fact a young Sydney man will be spending the next 18 months of his life in prison. Clearly it would have been far better if none of this was even necessary in the first place. But for whatever reason – the driver himself could not explain how the incident happened – a person made a very serious mistake behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. It impacted terribly on a group of innocent people who had every right to be doing what they were doing, where they were doing it, on that Sunday morning in 2014. Crown prosecutor Sean Hughes sought a jail term, saying: “There is a particular need to send a message to the motoring community to be aware of cyclists on the road and the need to give them proper space.” Judge Brian Knox agreed, and thankfully so. To have handed down anything but a serious sentence would surely have sent an extremely worrying message to that small but not insignificant group of Sydney drivers already regarded as some of least cyclist-friendly in the country. In effect, it would have suggested cyclist’s lives aren’t really so important and that endangering them through dangerous driving (be it intentional or merely careless) is not that big a deal, and somehow acceptable to the wider community. It is not. And it appears a line may have been drawn in the sand today by Judge Knox. The time for wrist slaps may finally be over. Just as we must take responsibility for our actions in every other facet of our lives, each time we get behind the wheel of a car we must be safe, vigilant and aware of those around us at all times, be they cyclists, pedestrians or other motorists. Or we must be prepared to be held accountable for the consequences, quite possibly in a jail cell.

For background to the incident itself, have a read of this.

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/life/weekend-australian-magazine/are-cyclists-fair-game-in-australia/story-e6frg8h6-1226884015021

The six laws of crashing

Few cyclists tempt fate by talking about it. But the simple fact remains the longer we ride – and the more time we spend on our bikes – the more likely it is we will fall off the bloody things and hurt ourselves. Having now coming off far more times than I care to remember, including a recent race fall from which I’m still recovering, it got me thinking about some of the lessons crashing has taught me over the years – and rest assured there are many. So in no particular order please let me introduce Carbon Addiction’s ‘Six Laws of Crashing a Bicycle’…

(See what you think and feel very free to suggest more from your own bitumen-eating experiences, either in the comments section, below, or by emailing carbonaddiction@gmail.com)

First Law of Crashing Second Law of Crashing Third Law of CrashingFourth Law of Crashing  Fifth Law of Crashing Sixth Law of Crashing

Lawless Cyclists, circa 1908

It’s always amazing what you find when researching. Stumbled across the following Letter to the Editor which appeared in The (Adelaide) Advertiser newspaper back on Saturday 6 June 1908.

107 years ago but the debate still sounds pretty familiar.

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LAWLESS CYCLISTS.

To the Editor.

Sir -“Wm. H. Allen’s” attack on “lawless cyclists” is enough to disgust even his clerical friend who declined his tea. Cyclists as I said in a previous letter, are the more fragile and easily injured of all wayfarer. Pedestrians have wide, well-drained paths everywhere for their use. Traps, carts, wagons, and the like have roads adequate to their requirements, barring the dust. But where does the cyclist come in? He contributes to the cost of the footpath, which he may not use, and to the cost of the roads, which are in general utterly unfit for his use, and which would have to be maintained in any case. He is forced to use these roads, at terrible and constant risk, especially in winter, and also great inconvenience. Mr Allen would know something about bumps if he had to bike it over the roads in and around Adelaide. As the cyclist pays a full share of the cost and upkeep of roads and footpaths which are of no use to him, whv do not the users of the roads and footpaths contribute towards the cost of tracks for cyclists? If the revenue of the various municipalities is at present inadequate to provide the necessary tracks, then cyclists should bring every possible pressure to bear in securing the trifling increase in rates necessary to provide them with thoroughfares, to which they are just as much entitled as are pedestrians to footpaths, and more so. Meanwhile, instead of treating them with the rigor and bad taste at present displayed, it would better become the authorities to evidence their recognition of the disabilities under which lie fragile wheelman labors by exhibiting a compromising and helpful spirit, by allowing cyclists the use of the lest-frequented paths, and by all other reasonable means in their power.

A.C. TUCKWELL.

 

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The original letter.

 

#shithappens

It was only a C-grade club race. Yet remarkably by the time I arrived home from hospital from a recent crash high on codeine, there wasn’t just video footage of the incident that took me out – there were multiple angles available on Youtube, showing things from both the front and the back of the bunch (see below). Scouring these videos provided a welcome distraction from the discomfort of busted ribs, road rash and ringing ears. It also showed quite clearly what had happened…

An unfortunate squeeze up ahead between three riders on my left led to a rider shifting right, in turn baulking another rider who then shifted straight into the path of someone else making a move up the extreme right of the road. They collided and while one went cross-country and managed to stay up, the other fell straight into my path. And bang. That was that. Instant bitumen sandwich.

At the time I wasn’t quite sure what had happened. In fact, my first dazed reaction was to think it was the guy on the right’s fault trying to pass where there wasn’t enough room – he was very apologetic and clearly felt the same way. I even thought perhaps I had contributed to it somehow. But as it turns out, thanks to the video footage it’s quite clear, neither of us had much to do with it at all. It was a classic case of a relatively little thing on one side of the road magnifying into a much bigger thing somewhere else. A perfect storm of unfortunateness.

I happen to be good mates with one of the guys involved in the initial squeeze. He was pretty upset by it all and even called to apologise. It was nice of him to do that, but in my mind there was no apology needed. We all make errors out there from time to time, momentary lapses in concentration, from taking our hands off the bars at the wrong time, drifting about on corners, misjudging our braking or cutting someone off accidentally by shifting about in the sprint.

Thankfully, most of the time we get away with it with little more than a few heart flutters and coarse words being exchanged. But every so often something more serious happens, bones break and blood is spilled. It sucks, no doubt. But it’s part of racing. Shit happens. We all know the risks. I certainly did yesterday. And it certainly won’t stop me from being back racing as soon as I can get that doctor’s certificate. Oh, and at least my bike was okay…

TdF Week 2 : Report Card

Second rest day is done. It’s time for the Alps and the final push for Paris. Here’s how we see things as of right now. Agree? Disagree?

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Sky
A++
Yellow jersey by a comfortable margin, putting all the heat on their rivals. Forget marginal gains. Only a major catastrophe in the Alps will stop Froome from winning his second TdF. The intense and often hysterical media scrutiny seems only to be galvanising the team further. Thomas has been a revelation. One final challenge to withstand this week.

Van Arvermet

BMC 
B+
Another stage win and Van Garderen is still in the top three on GC. The American is riding a strong race, but to us he just looks to be missing that final 5% to really take it to Froome and Quintana – and not just this year.

Tinkoff-Saxo
B
We agree with Tinkov, Sagan is the strongest individual rider in the race this year. Green is virtually sewn up and he’s done it pretty much on his own. But with Contador far from his peak to date, it’s looming as another Tour more of opportunities missed than ones taken.

QUINTANA-VALVERDE001p-630x420

Movistar
A
Quintana has been strong and Valverde has been arguably even stronger with repeated feisty attacks. But in all likelihood yellow looks to be just out of reach. With two in the top 5, best young rider and leading the overall team classification, it’s still been a good Tour so far for the Spaniards. Could they make it a great one in the Alps? You know they’ll keep attacking.

Ettix-Quickstep
B-
The smiles of week one seem a distant memory now. Cav got a stage win, true. But it’s all aboard the autobus now. A stage win in Paris would lift spirits immeasurably. Kwiatkowski has been fiesty. Uran has been virtually invisible.

Astana
C+
A slight improvement on week one, but the horse has long since bolted. Nibali has shown some character and so far is the only of Froome’s main pre-race rivals to take back any time. Vino has provided plenty of comedy, whether he realises it or not.

Orica-GreenEDGE
D
Nothing much to report, except that they still have riders…riding. The busted up Michael Matthews has been herculean and even scored a top 10 the other night. Can the Yates boys salvage something in the Alps?

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Riders of the week:
Steven Cummings – first stage win for MTN-Qhubekah, ever
Geraint Thomas – a fine rider and a hard man who just keeps busting his gut for Froome
Jean-Christophe Peraud – skinned alive but kept on riding
Peter Sagan – more seconds than the Ghandi movie
Laurent Jalabert – he knows who he is, doesn’t he Chris?

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Geraint, we salute you

The further this Tour goes the more we’re loving Team Sky’s Geraint Thomas. Not because he’s 6th on GC. Or because he was sent flying off a high-speed descent by an out-of-control Warren Barguil, kissed a light post with his head, crashed into a ditch only to remount his Pinarello and still almost catch up with the GC leaders by the finishing kite. No, we loved his comments to the media straight after the stage.

Thomas: “Barguil just wiped me out.”
Journo: “And what happened after you fell?”
Thomas: “I got back up, and started chasing.”
Journo: “Any immediate injury?”
Thomas: “Nah, I head-butted the wooden pole thing, got tangled up in the bushes and the wire thing. Some guy pulled me up.”
Journo: “A spectator pulled you out?”
Thomas (dry as you like): “Yeah, some French people like us.”

Priceless.

Welcome to Salem, France

salem

Is this 2015 France, or 1693 Salem? The current hysteria surrounding the holder, and most likely winner, of the maillot jaune and his team really has me wondering. Fuelled by a perfect storm of the sport’s dubious legacy and a lazy media repeatedly defaulting to sensationalism for the easy story (and the absence of a Frenchman remotely near the summit of a general classification blown apart on the Stage 10 slopes to La Pierre-Saint-Martin) this witch-hunt really is getting crazy. Every post stage press conference is the same. Seriously? If someone fails a test or gets caught red handed, fair enough. But until then is this all we have to talk about during the pinnacle of the sport, over and over again?

There are endless stories coming out of the Tour as there are every year – epic bravery, tactical genius, historic wins, dire miscalculations, new technology etc. Why such intense obsession on one that may not even be true at all? You’ve asked your questions, we know your suspicions. Now can’t we move on, please?

People say Australians have a tall poppy syndrome, well surely the French put us in the shade? I’m not there, but I have sat in plenty of press rooms in my time and it would appear many of the scribes currently in France are spending the hours of each stage not paying the scantest of attention to the race itself, but scouring Google on their laptops for even the slightest hint of a misdeed from Froome, Brailsford and Co – any time in last three decades will do. Mechanical doping? That must be it! An employee who once worked with US Postal? Guilty as sin! Leaked power data files? Ha! Did you hear Froome once took a cough lolly for a sore throat when he was eleven. Cheat!!!

Who cares if it only has the faintest skerrick of truth to it; pump it out there ASAP, harvest the clicks and page views and let social media do its thing. Inevitably a rogue minority of fans are now picking up on the whole hysterical narrative, taking things into their own hands out on the road. Hurling insults is one thing. But, be these people guilty or not, to hear of punches and urine being thrown at riders makes us fear for the future of the sport, it not the human race.

Yes, people are dancing with the devil over at the Tour de France, alright. But the way we see things they’re not necessarily cyclists.

TdF Week 1 : Report Card

The top 10 at the first rest day. The obvious name missing is Nibali.

The top 10 at the first rest day. The obvious name missing is Nibali.

Sky
A+
Yellow jersey, solid time gains on all major GC rivals, no major incidents, what a difference a year makes. Looked steely in the team time trial. Looks like they have their 2012/13 mojo back.

BMC

BMC
A+
Two stage wins, a short stint in yellow for Rohan Dennis and their team leader is nestled into second on GC. Andy Riis’ men couldn’t have gone much better so far. Can they keep it up when the roads begin to rise?

Tinkoff-Saxo
A
Strong stuff to date and generally uneventful in a hugely eventful race, which is just what Contador would have wanted. He’s lost a minute to Froome, but he’s still close enough if his legs hold out. Sagan has been his usual consistent self. Barring catastrophe the green jersey looks as good as his once again with the mountains looming – even if he’s yet to win a stage.

Movistar
B
Solid enough form so far from Quintana and Valverde, but with the Columbian two minutes down on Froome will he live to regret the stage 2 time losses in the Netherlands? You get the sense they’re about to try and blow this race apart. But they can’t afford any more slip ups.

Ettix-Quickstep
B
Yellow jersey, multiple stage wins from three different riders. By most teams’ standards it’s an outstanding Tour already. But these guys will want more, much more. Cav in particular will not be enjoying being beaten by Greipel and Sagan. Tony Martin’s first week encapsulates the yin and yang of pro cycling.

AG2R
B-
A stage win to Vuillermoz. But after a poor start, team leaders Bardet and Peraud have continued to look off the pace and find themselves with serious time losses to recoup in the mountains. The only upside is with their GC hopes virtually extinguished they may be free to chase stage wins.

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FDJ
C
Oh, no. Pinot. Lost time on multiple stages in the first week and, realistically, saw any chance of a repeat podium in 2015 ride away on the cobbles. He’s had some bad luck, sure. But his lack of composure was a little alarming. Maybe a stage win will ease the pain?

Astana
C-
Terrible first week. Nibali is going to have to ride out of his skin to even get close to challenging by Paris. With the team’s second and third best GC riders resting after the Giro, he’ll have to do much of it alone too. Losing 10 seconds on the stage 8 finish up the Mur de Bratagne was ominous.

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Orica-GreenEDGE
D-
The Aussies are marked down not for a lack of effort, but for some truly wretched luck. More crashes than the NASDAQ. Hopefully the Yates brothers can lift spirits in the mountains. Michael Matthews has shown some serious ticker to still be in the race. Shaping as a year of what might have been at the Tour.

Performances of Week 1:

Andre Greipel. Consistently bettering Cav for the first time in a long time.
Adam Hansen. Dislocated shoulder won’t stop him from reaching Paris.
Daniel Teklehaimanot. Rode himself into the history books. The hardest name to pronounce quickly in world cycling?
Lycra manufacturers. So many jerseys and skinsuits has been destroyed on the tarmac, they’ve been working around the clock.

 

 

The Secret Journo: Report 1

You’ve heard of the Secret Pro, right? Well, we’re excited to announce that throughout the course of this year’s Tour de France we’ve secured exclusive rights to the Secret Journo who, free from the ever-demanding and politically-correct shackles of the UCI, ASO and his own editorial staff, will tell us how it really is on the ground over there. Will he tell the truth? Is he even real? Who knows, but at least it will be different to the usual media fare… here’s the first report, just in from Utrecht.

TourdeFrance1eetappe

Our American friends have New York New York. This year’s Tour has Utrecht Utrecht. Which if you ask me is two Utrechts too many. Right up front, I hate Utrecht. It’s a big Dutch uni town and that brings brings back bad memories for this scribe. Throw into the mix the annual scrum of cyclo-groupies, corporate back slappers and overpaid media hangers-on and the next few days are likely to be rather unpleasant, brown cafes or not.

I’ve done a few now, and the Grand Depart is always the same; like one big high school reunion for the media where everyone acts as if they’re best mates at first, until quickly remembering just what tools they really are, albeit 12 months older and with even less hair than last time. Last year the locales for this annual tradition were the pubs of Leeds and other dry stone-fenced nooks of Yorkshire. This year everyone is cruising the Oudegracht and other canals in this uber flat city, microdosing on the local coffee, bakkie. I’m over it already. Thank god the race starts tomorrow and by Tuesday afternoon we’ll be in France.

As for the reason we’re all here, most folks are saying 2015 will be a race in four. I’m not so sure. Questionable steak burgers or not, if Contador can get up again after the Giro I will dip my cap to him, I really will. But I just can’t see it happening. Everyone here is worried about Quintana and rightly so. Fresh and fit, he really seems the stand out, yet unquestionably brings an enigmatic element into the race given we haven’t seen that much of him this season as yet. After the little Columbian I’m also fascinated by the prospects of Bardet. Lots of pressure on his scrawny French shoulders after finishing top ten in 2014. But what’s new in the land of baguettes and smelly fromage? We’ll also be watching Porte very closely, not so much for the overall win but for signals as to whom he might be riding for next year. The peloton’s jungle drums are already banging more than the team mechanics and podium girls.

Stage 1 is pancake flat, but at a smidgen under 14km may not be long enough for Tony Martin to exert his full time trial might. Might be a little biased here but someone like Rohan Dennis might pop up in yellow on Saturday or even the Dutchman, Domoulin or Movistar’s Dowsett.

Until next time…

The rise of the early adopter

dawn

I was reading an interview with Vicenzo Nibali the other day. Among a raft of interesting comments about everything from his childhood in Sicily to the ongoing pressures and suspicions surrounding his team at Astana in the lead up to the 2015 Tour de France, he was quite candid about his indifference for nightclubs and late nights. This made me smile. For while I fully appreciate I’m never going to win much more than a tyre of two from cycling, I can certainly relate to the Shark of Messina on this particular issue.

Sure, I stayed up late and caused havoc to my brain cells (and bank balance) with the best of them in my late teens and early twenties. I still do on occasion even now. But I’m certainly not ashamed to say I’m no night owl. I’m a card-carrying morning person and looking back now I’ve always been one to choose an early night and early start over going late/late.

My love for the pre-dawn hours has existed ever since I used to rise with the ‘thud’ of The Courier Mail as it slammed into our Brisbane carport. If dad, another early riser, beat me to the paper I’d settle for listening to my Walkman or perhaps sneaking out to watch The Ed Allen Show or Aerobics Oz Style. Tragic, but true. I have even fonder memories of rising with the sparrows during school holidays to go fishing for whiting, bream and flathead with my pop on the Gold Coast Broadwater back in the 1970s and 80s. They were great mornings. We never ran out of things to talk about from the moment we left the Paradise Point cottage he shared with my nan to the moment we returned, more often than not with a hefty feed of fresh fish. He was a good fisherman.

These days my pop is gone, but the early starts he inspired in me still very much continue; just with bikes instead of fishing rods. Ultegra instead of Alvey. Bike pumps instead of yabbie pumps.

Given my love of mornings, it was perhaps just a matter of time before I eventually found cycling. Along with fishing, rowing and perhaps dog walking, it really is the ideal pastime for an early riser. I’ve never lived in the country, but suspect rolling along in that final hour before sunrise – especially during winter – is about as close as you’ll get to it without leaving the city limits. It’s a chance to explore your city as if you’re the only one in it. To be free from the usual craziness of traffic and noise. To watch the sun peek its head over the horizon under a blanket of stars instead of, well, just a blanket. And escape the worries of the world – at least momentarily – except, perhaps, for garbage trucks and misplaced wheelie bins.

Yeah, I’m a morning person alright … and that’s why dad often goes to bed before you do these days, kids. Get over it  ;-)

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