31 07 2008

I have just ridden my bike around the independent Isle of Portsmouth.  I stuck to the roads that took me as close to the sea as I could and following cycle paths where possible.  It took me less than 2 hours and I did it non stop.  I think that I am getting a bit fitter.  I had to do it as I am awaiting a really important phone call and needed to use up a bit of energy.

Just thought you might like to know.


Why I Love July (Also Called Make It 4)

18 07 2008

I actually love July for 3 reasons, the cricket, the football transfer merry-go-round (busy times for Pompey and I may write somthing about this soon) but mostly for Le Tour de France.

Firstly a few facts and figures:

  • First ridden in 1903 by 60 riders
  • Only 10 riders finished in 1919
  • 15 million spectators will line the roads during the race
  • The fastest average speed for the race is 41.654km/h won by Lance Armstrong in 2005
  • 144 British riders have taken part over the years
  • 2008 tour raced over 3500km over 21 stages

I am a big cycling fan and have been to see the great race 6 times. I was there when the great Miguel Indurain finally cracked in the alps, I have seen all of the greats of the nineties flying past at 60km an hour, The hour coverage with Phil Ligget and Paul Sherwin is some of the best commentary that you will hear, and its not all about the cycling, there is the whole spectacle of the tour caravan (a 20km procession of advertising, team cars, dignitaries, VIPs, TV crews and a few cyclists thrown in) and its getting exciting again now. There is a British rider doing not just well, but doing superbly. Mark Cavendish from the Isle of Man (with an ego about the same size) has until the 13th stage won 3 stages, he is without a doubt the fastest man in the world over the last 200m (a spped camera at the end of one of the stages clocked him at 74km an hour). No Briton has ever achieved 3 stage wins in the same tour before and only 6 have ever won stages.

Mark Cavendish takes his 3rd stage win.

Mark Cavendish takes his 3rd stage win.

Winning his third stage would normally have been huge news in the cycling world, but for the continuing depths that cycling is going to. I am completely disgusted by all of the doping that goes on, it makes a mockery out of the sport and what is the worlds premier endurance event. A third rider this year has been caught with traces of EPO in his blood, (all 3 of them had taken a varient of EPO (its called CERA) that has been undetectable before and is fairly advanced) Ricardo Ricco the young Italian had taken a brilliant stage win in the Pyrannese earlier in the tour but has now been shown to be a cheat, and he deserves all he gets. For those of you that don’t know, EPO increases red blood cells and therefore increases endurance.

I found this quote in the paper today, see if you can figure out what is wrong with it:

British cyclist David Millar summed up competitors’ feelings, saying: ‘It’s irresponsible. This guy does not have any love or care for the sport.”

The answer is, its by David Millar, who himself has served a 2 years ban for doping.

Anyway Saunier Duvall, Riccos team has now quit the tour, today they have sacked another of their riders for “Irregularities”. This is after the team manager guaranteed live on TV that these riders were clean…

Now in the tour, 3 teams independently test their riders, Mark Cavendish’s Columbia team are one of them. Cavendish was also the first rider to sign to the anti doping charter. Even though the guy has an ego that only rappers can equal, I like the guy, heis good, and he knows it. He is also quick to acknowledge the help that the team have given him. Without the domestiques (the dogsbody riders that fetch the leaders food and drinks, and lead out the sprinters) dragging his weary body over the haut catergorie climbs, he wouldn’t even have still been in the event, he would have been eliminated, so bonus points for that.

Anyway, big congratulations to Mark, to win a stage is a fantastic achievement, to win 3 is amazing. He isn’t sure if he is going to complete the tour, as he has to go off to the Olympics where he will hopefully bring back a gold in the Madison race.

OK, lets make that 4 (I was writing this as I was watching the coverage), he just won the 13th stage, and thats 2 stages in a row. From being boxed in with 150m to go to 2 bike lengths in front over the line is a completely amazing sprint. Especially leaving some of the best in the world for dead.

Getting Out of the House

15 07 2008

I have had a few weeks sat around doing nothing, and it was really beginning to get to me.  Then I went to Spain and the sitting had got worse.  Now things are starting to perk up, I have a few days work in a warehouse this week and possibly some next week, as well as a day corporate eventing.

The best news is though that I have an interview for the good job that I wanted.  But thats not until the 30th.  Still its a good start.

Pamped up

13 07 2008

OK, this will be a difficult one. I have been on holiday for a week with the Housemate and Dev, and now I have 2 problems, firstly I can’t remember most of what went on, as a lot of alcohol was consumed and secondly I have to try and avoid the moral debate of going to the Pamplona Bull run.

We had left for Worcester to pick up Dev on Thursday and we had a nice meal and a few drinks with Fatbob and Bimbo and headed to the airport in the early hours of Friday morning. After landing in the oven that is Madrid wh headed into the airport and the train, after much rolling of eyes from hotel staff we headed into the underground. We picked up the train where I found out that I had left my bag on the platform, so after a scary back track and a few conversations in my finest Italian to the guards (I know that I was in Spain) I managed to get it back with everything in it and we got to Hostel Pretoria in Madrid where we stayed for the night. We had a few beers in a bar where it turned out to be happy hour where we were getting 2 for one on large beers and carried on until midnight

JP, Strongy, Tupi, Dev, Garrett, The Housemate and Me sitting on the bullpen

JP, Strongy, Tupi, Dev, Garrett, The Housemate and Me sitting on the bullpen.

We caught the train the next day to Pamplona and watch the temperature slowly rise and found our way to the bus for the fanatics campsite. When we got there one of the first things we were told was that we could not use the word spelt M.I.N.E as the forefeit was 10 press ups. We got our tent and some food and then got chatting to 2 guys that would prove to be big parts of this weekend, Tupi and Strongy, a couple of Aussies from Newcastle and doing a spot of travelling. We got chatting about the Premier league (the international language of football never fails) and learnt that you had to get tickets to buy beers, so we loaded up a receipt with 10 each and headed to the evening party, which again headed into the wee small hours.

The next day was the opening ceremony so we headed into Pamplona and made our way to the centre of the city to the square, where at about 10.30, chaos broke out. There was Sangria being thrown everywhere, champagne was being sprayed all over the place water was being thrown from windows, it was amazing and so much fun. Then at about 11.50 it turned to hell.

The crush

The crush

The crowd before hel broke loose

The crowd before hell broke loose

There was a massive surge as thousands more people must have pushed in, I ended up trying to make my way to the exit of the square while having my face wedged between 2 south african rugby players and someone elbowing me in the back for 5 minutes. This was all scary stuff as the floor was covered in glass and people were losing shoes and the falling over in it. This really was a nightmare, I had lost everyone and was trying to get to the exit when a group of about 20 people went down just in front of me. The weight of the crowd was pushing nto them and you could see them being stamped on but there is not a lot you can do about it, except try to skirt round the edge and not stamp on them. Now I know that I can survive any mosh pit anywhere in the world.

After this I went to watch a few people jump off of the fountain (Crazy bastards, this is seriously dangerous, especially if you listen to the stories of what the locals do. I bought a carton of Don Simon (Sangria) and wandered around the town trying to bump into people that I at least recognised and managed to meet Tupi,

Mel in the gay pride poncho

Mel in the gay pride poncho

Dev, Tara and Mel who had managed to pick up a rather fetching Gay Pride poncho. We drank some more and then we bumped into Srongy, JP and Garrett.

Now what happened the rest of the night was a bit of a blur but when I woke up I was not necessarily in the best state to walk, let alone run, so we sat in the stand while Tupi went off to do his run. We sat in the stands and watched the band, then we heard the first signal that the gates were open, and then the 2nd that the bulls were on the course. The first few people came through the gates and then about 2 minutes later the first bulls came in, followed buy a big surge of people and then the 2nd herd came. The ring filled up as all of the bulls came through and then young bulls are released into the full arena, that run around like mad knocking people over and throwing them around, which is vicious stuff. After the arena we went back to the campsite and the 9 of us (Me, Dev, the housemate, Strongy, Tupi, Mel, Tara, JP and Garrett) sat talking all day over a few beers and a couple of half roast chickens.

Bull in the ring

Bull in the ring

The next day came and it was time for me and the housemate to run. We were up at 5am, to get to our place, where were we met up with a few other fanatics guys. We waited around for a few hours with the tension rising by the minute. Eventually the first firework went off, swiftly followed by the 2nd, by this time I was joging fairly rapidly up the main street, trying to find a clear path that wasn’t blocked by slow runners. From behind you could hear the hoofbeats and then to my left I could see the first herd running past me. I knew by this time that I would make it to the arena but I had to make it through the tunnel before the 2nd group got there. I put my foot down and tried to avoid the Spanish who were pushing people into the middle of the road. I got to the exit of the tunnel having to jump to avoid the guy that fell in front of me.

Geting to the ring

Geting to the ring

I had made it to the arena but I had to find the housemate where we agreed to meet. I found him, but before long, we had been scattered by one of the young bulls in the arena. The most scary point of this whole experience is when you have a bull staring at you from about 2ft away and wondering where the hell he is going to go. I stayed in for four of the 6 bulls and tried to get out, I was pushed back in twice, but then took a running leap at the fence and made it out.

I am glad that I did it, its been something that I have wanted to do since I was 12 and I am glad that I have now, will I do it again, I really don’t know, its possibly time to move on to other things.

After the run it was back to the campsite for last night drinks and me and Dev made it back to the tent at about 2am after saying that we were going to have an early night. We headed back to Madrid after that for a spot of culture, where we went to the Americas museum and the Museum Sophia Reina, the art gallery that holds Guernica the massive fresco by Picasso. This gallery also holds many of the most famous pieces by the most influential spanish artists such as Miro and Goya. But the best thing in the museum was the temporary exhibition of digital art, especially the works by Daniel Rozin whose software and mechanical mirrors were superb. They work by a small camera measuring the light and dark infront of it and transferring this to a set of switches that move different pieces around to create a shadow image of you. Incredibly geeky really but very cool.

Madrid Sunset

Madrid Sunset

Sadly after watching the sun set in Madrid by the cathedral we had to come home. Back to the harsh reality of the UK.

It was great stuff and I enjoyed every minute of it.