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Tuesday, 9 December 2014

EVERYDAY CYCLIST (6) - TWO FRIENDS CYCLING IN ITALY, STAGE 2

May 2006

The journey to Genoa had been a long but ultimately thrilling one, with the ride around the starting location of stage 6 of the Giro and some fantastic food for good measure.
We reached the Ligurian capital in the evening. My parents' house is not far from the centre and only a stone's throw away from the football stadium. I was exhausted but thrilled to see them. Mike, my adventure companion, needed some help to make sense of our quick conversations in Italian. While recounting our journey at the kitchen table we savoured more delicious food made by mamma's own hands and some helpings of local focaccia, an amazing delicacy not found anywhere else, accompanied by a few glasses of wine.
During the conversation I learnt that next day my dad would travel to Casale Monferrato, between Milan and Turin, to play the cello for an amateur orchestra travelling there for an evening concert. He had been a professional cellist for Genoa's Teatro Carlo Felice for the good part of 30 years and since his retirement he has kept his skills sharp by playing for a small local orchestra, made up of wannabe and retired musicians.
Quick on the calculation, I came up with the idea of riding there late morning, so we'd have time to catch up with some sleep. My dad simply thought we were crazy and, not knowing how we were on the bike, he was more than concerned we wouldn't make it, thus worrying him while he had to concentrate with the task at hand.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

EVERYDAY CYCLIST (5) - TWO FRIENDS CYCLING IN ITALY, STAGE 1

May 2006

Given how much we had enjoyed our experience in Bath before Christmas, Mike, Sam and I agreed it was time for some serious riding and we needed mountains for that. After scouring the internet for ideas, we settled for the Granfondo delle Alpi, a relatively low key sportive in the Italian Alps, set between Bergamo and the border with Switzerland. Its patron was Gimondi and he was scheduled to ride part of it. As he is one of my childhood heroes, I relished the thought of meeting the legend so we registered.
Then disaster struck.
While playing football during a lunchtime kickabout, I was tackled hard on my right ankle and it swelled up really quickly to the size of a Zeppelin. A brisk, yet hoppy, visit to A&E revealed the break in the bone. This was six weeks before we would leave. Talking to the physiotherapist, she assured me that after resting it for a couple of weeks it would have been ok to start exercising the muscles around it and that cycling would be perfect as long as it wasn't too vigorous. What I actually heard was: "All clear, do as you like".
As we had already paid for the ferry, Mike and I decided to go after all (Sam had by then booked a different holiday). I couldn't predict how much cycling I'd be able to do and I didn't want the pressure of a timed granfondo. The best option for us would be to go to Italy and just ride.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

EVERYDAY CYCLIST (4) - A LOOP AROUND BATH

November 2005

I finally bought an alloy bike with carbon forks, seatstays, chainstays.
It was a Bianchi Nirone 7 with Campagnolo components, the Italian Job.
At work we kept talking of more adventurous rides, of trying something that wasn't London based.
With my colleagues Sam and Mike, we picked Bath. I knew the area as it was there I spent my first year in Britain back in 1990.
I had mixed memories of the place. I spent a year there at the Foundation Course in Design and the architecture is remarkable. But I had my interview for the College in July 1990 at the exact time that Italy was hosting the World Cup and ironically my hometown would host Brazil (of all teams) and Scotland and the stadium was a mere 10 minute walk from my house... while I was 1,600km away of course!
Back to the ride.

Monday, 24 November 2014

POLITICS, THE ITALIAN MALAISE

Affaritaliani.it : "They all drop, the only things that grow are nausea and non-voting, the only winner Matteo Salvini. And it is he, the other Matteo, the one with the earring (as opposed to Matteo Renzi, the PM), the new phenomenon of Italian politics. The day after the limited regional vote, in spite of partisan interpretations, like it or not this is the news."

I'm puzzled by this. Salvini (of the Northern League) gets 19% of the votes in Emilia Romagna region and ZERO in Calabria, however he is hailed as the new political phenomenon.

Renzi, leader of the Centre Left, receives 44.5% (49% coalition) in Emilia Romagna and 23.7% (61.4% coalition) in Calabria, yet he is the great loser.

IL VOTO MALATO

Affaritaliani.it : "Calano tutti, cresce solo la nausea e il non-voto, vince solo Matteo Salvini. Ed è lui, l'altro Matteo, quello con l'orecchino, il nuovo fenomeno politico italiano. Il giorno dopo il mini-voto regionale, ad onta di interpretazioni di parte e interessate, volenti o nolenti è questa la notizia."

Ma spiegatemi una cosa. Salvini/Lega Nord prende 19% dei voti in Emilia e ZERO in Calabria, ma viene dato come fenomeno della politica.
Renzi prende 44,5% (49% in coalizione) in Emilia e 23,7% (61,4% in coalizione) in Calabria, eppure e' il grande perdente.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

EVERYDAY CYCLIST (3) - FIRST GROUP RIDE

September 2005

By this point, 4 months into it, cycling fever had hit not only me but a few of my colleagues as well, most of whom had been riding a few years already. For that reason we decided to get together and tackle our first ‘sportive’... well, charity ride, as the choice of sportives in the UK was rather poor back then.
We picked the rather tame London to Windsor Ride, starting in Richmond-upon-Thames. The course was to be around 65km, meandering through the Surrey countryside and finishing in Windsor.
We met at my place in New Malden the night before and quite obviously a few bottles of wine made the rounds. We also had a good serving of pasta as we would ‘carb up’ for next day’s feat! After going to bed rather late, of course, in the morning we prepared and faffed about with the usual rituals of finding shoes, energy bars and gels, spare tubes, etc etc.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

FRONT BREAK... LEFT OR RIGHT LEVER

Uk bikes have front brakes on the drive side lever, continental bike the other way around.
Nothing new there, cars are setup differently as well, no biggie... or is it?
As a right handed person I find feathering on the breaks easier to control with my left hand as the right arm is stronger, hence my constant use of the rear brake even on descents, which is quite wrong as the bike tends to lock and skid at speed.
I'm forcing myself to brake with the right hand now but it is weird. After so many years it feels as though my left arm is kept on a sling and my right arm is doing the steering and the breaking.

Caliper brakes are designed to have the front brake on the left lever as the cable simply sweeps down into the slot on the right of said caliper, while from the right lever, when exiting the bar tape it has to bend a lot more to drop straight down.
Conclusion, I might have to swap the cables and go 'continental'.

Questions:
1. How are pros' bikes set up by their mechanics as they might need to swap them en course?
2. Do pros from UK learn from the beginning on continental bikes?
3. Is this part of the reason why top British riders (Froome/Wiggins) are rubbish in comparisons when descending?
4. Am I simply nuts and it's just me having this problem? Should I just swap my arms through surgery?

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

BOOK REVIEW - CLIMBS AND PUNISHMENT

Having followed Felix Lowe through his blog on Eurosport for years under his pseudonym Blazin' Saddles and via his humorous yet savvy twitter account, picking his book to read over the summer was an easy choice.
I was amazed to learn that, although one of the main voices in cycling in the UK, Felix had yet to turn pedals in anger prior to this adventure. This fact makes his feat, riding from Barcelona to Rome via Hannibal's Alpine route, all the more astonishing.
Add to it the fact that his "rest" days were used to climb Alpe d'Huez twice in the same day, Ventoux (only once though) and various detours from the planned route, and you have a truly outstanding story.
While other cycling books tend to be sensationalist with various doping tell-all blubber, this one is a refreshing account of a non-pro like any of us, albeit a lot taller than most of us.
We've all spent countless hours recounting tales of pain and elation at conquering mean climbs, embarrassing mishaps and legendary bad weather days, and this is the core of this tale.
Using the route taken by Hannibal and following his footsteps, or rather hoofsteps, on his march to Rome, Felix and the rest of the gang ride 2,800km through the Pyrenees, Ventoux (just for fun), the Alps, half of Italy down the Apennine spine, through Tuscany with his Chianti region.
Lowe is very erudite and witty, his sense of humour is used to portray his companions but also to show his own aloofness and inexperience as he only had less than a year to prepare for this trip.
There are tales of Hannibal and his army of elephants, tales of cycling, current and vintage, and plenty of wine choices to complement mouthwatering culinary masterpieces.
If you love cycling and history this book is certainly the best combination. Beware, the author does not hold back when writing about problems of the bowels or trying to hide his private parts from semitransparent lycra shorts. But he did write stadia as a plural for stadium, that alone deserves a 10/10.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

EVERYDAY CYCLIST (2) - CYCLING IN WALES

August 2005

After a few attempts at commuting to work on my mountain bike, I decided it was time to try a proper ride as I felt that surely I knew everything there was to know about cycling. So, I bought a map of Wales, yes a paper map, and plotted a course which I thought would be suitable. All on roads, of course, as I didn’t really believe there was all that difference between my steed and a road bike. I didn’t know the area and the nature of the terrain so I opted for a loop around the Elan Valley and its stunning reservoirs, which give Birmingham clean water.
I booked a B&B in Rhayader in at Gigrin Farm, which doubled up as a Red Kite feeding farm. It had the smallest room I’d ever slept in but was cosy and, although spartan in its offerings, it suited me fine. No space for my bike so it had to ‘sleep’ in the car.
I proved to be quite an amusement (i.e. ridiculous) to the hosts, not many lycra clad guys around the area, at least back then, and I could sense from their looks the many questions as to why I would entertain the idea of dressing up like that.
The plan was to head down the Valley, coasting the reservoirs, then up towards the village ominously called Devil’s Bridge Falls, then head south and across to Beulah for the final leg up to Rhayader.
Up to that point in my cycling experience I had not done any sort of climbing and this trip would surely confirm my belief that I could ride anywhere by now. Little did I know.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

GIRO, TOUR AND VUELTA TO MERGE IN 2017

July 2017

The Giro d'Italia, the Tour de France and the Vuelta a Espana organisers met UCI officials back in September 2016 at an undisclosed location in the Swiss Alps to draw up plans for a Mega Tour.
Fabian Cancellara's house (oops) provided the perfect backdrop for this momentous get together. The former cyclist (slipped disc from lifting too many cobble trophies) proved a great host, but he was asked never to address anyone in Fabianese as their interpreters' budget was already over the limit.
The reason for this meeting was the necessity to innovate and implement drastic changes. The cause? Oleg Tinkov.
The Russian maverick fuelled by a constant flow of vodka, after losing the last three Tours, decided to up the game and disband the current cycling system by announcing a new league comprising of 7 teams, all paid for by him, where Contador would be the leader on a rotational system. He promised to pour hundreds of millions of euros, rubles and dollars into the new set up, effectively ending UCI/ASO/RCS domination.
Something needed to be done.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

EVERYDAY CYCLIST (1) - MY FIRST LONDON COMMUTE

May 2005


The bicycle has always been in my radar, whether by reading about it in the pink pages of La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper, or by riding it in my childhood during my holidays visiting grandparents in Parma. In Genoa, where I’m from, cycling for leisure is not really an option as the sprawling city is built on steep terrain. My flat, for instance, would have required an elevation gain of 150 metres over 1.5 km… not exactly something for the occasional rider; so the riding was limited to the summer holidays in pan flat Parma.Therefore, while living in relatively flat London, cycling started to have a certain appeal, especially considering the ever increasing price of public transport and the constant waste of time waiting for either trains or buses.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

TOUR DE FRANCE - GREEN JERSEY

Every year there are discussions around the points classification, the green jersey.
Some argue it's the sprinters' jersey, but then sprinters win stages, a lot of them, but no jersey (Cavendish/Kittel).
Others call it the most consistent rider's gratification. But then that same rider might not win a single stage, so most consistent at what, losing (Sagan)? Also, the combativity prize already rewards panache.
One solution, and it seems pretty simple to me is to combine stage wins with points.
So stage wins come first and in case of same amount of wins, the points then sort out the classification.
That way, success is rewarded, backed up by a consistent performance.
A bit like it happens at the Olympics, where regardless of how many medals won, the GC is usually worked out ranking Gold medals first, then silver and so on.

Example from Tour 2014:

                            WINS      POINTS
1. Kittel                4             177
2. Nibali               4             149
3. Kristoff             2             217
4. T.Martin            2             76
5. Majka               2             62
6. Greipel             1             143
7. Gallopin            1             105
8. Kadri                 1             83      
9. Navardauskas     1             82
10. Rogers             1             54
11. Boom              1              50
12. Trentin           1              31
13. Sagan              0             408
14. Coquard          0             233
15. Renshaw          0             153
16. VanAvermaet   0             147
............

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

A TALE OF TWO WORLDS

It seems to be the case with many World Championship races that there are two sides to the event, a positive and a negative. Positive side is an opportunity to see different teams with different dynamics from the trade teams, a race with tactical depth, a worthy winner... The negative was the venue and some riders' behaviour.

Ponferrada was not exciting in terms of the course and for the lack of support anywhere along the route. Wide nondescript drags and unattractive backdrop especially around the finish line (TT and Road races alike) and a very small presence of fans to cheer the riders. Even in the busiest section around the castle there were big gaps, which is shocking considering how many people turned up in Yorkshire for Tour de France or Belfast for the Giro. Spain is a cycling nation and their riders were amongst the favourites to win, which makes the lack of support even more difficult to understand... the bad weather? Come on, it was only a bit of rain.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

MEN'S 2014 WORLD RR CHAMPIONSHIP PREDICTIONS

These are the riders I see as having a stab at crossing the line first in Ponferrada. 
I take in consideration that there's no long run in to the circuit, it should be a selective race from the off. Also some riders have not shown great form in the last few weeks, while others like Sagan can perform all of a sudden. Saying that, the Slovak still has to win a big race. 
I don't see anyone from team GB to have a proper chance and I hope I'm wrong as cycling in UK needs morale boosting. Kennaugh and Thomas are good and at least Kennaugh is on good form but I can't see them beating the favourites at their own game.

Friday, 19 September 2014

50 YEARS TOGETHER FOR MUM AND DAD - MAMMA E PAPÀ 50 ANNI INSIEME

Fifty years of marriage is no small feat. In these times especially, it's almost a rarity and not just because of age. Few people can claim 50 years as a couple, and still less can count 50 years as happy couple.
Notwithstanding all the adversities of life, you two have always remained positive and happy within the union started in a ballroom in the countryside.
The secret is having accepted each other's weaknesses, but also recognised the strengths each of you have. You two have taken this marriage forward with wisdom and integrity and that has always been a great inspiration to us.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

LAST RIDER STANDING

Cycling was supposed to enter a new era. Cavendish was shouting that years ago, then most people started agreeing with that thought. Why not. Armstrong's era had been dealt with and a new philosophy of marginal gains and new training finesse was introduced.
Then a few have been caught doping, thanks to better testing; more riders, big and small fish, have swam right into the net of shame.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

MY 20TH ANNIVERSARY AT CHANNEL 4 NEWS

To be precise is 20 years at ITN. The first 2 and a half years spent between a variety of news on the ITV channel, World News, Powerhouse, Big Breakfast, Newschannel, you name it, I was there. Then came the much desired transfer to Channel 4 News.
When my father celebrated his 30 years at the Opera House in Genoa, I was in awe that anyone could stay in a company that long and still enjoy the job. I'm still a long way from that goal but I've never faltered in my love for my job. I still like it as much if not more than in 1994 when I was assigned the first sting on the OJ Simpson trial. Working in the news we get to stay in touch with the outside world on a daily basis, with its horrors, its disasters, but also incredible human stories, which at Channel 4 we strive and succeed to portray in their fullness, without compromise.
I've had the pleasure and the honour to work with some incredibly talended people. A newsroom is a madding crowd, a motley crew and at times a dysfunctional family but it oozes passion, tension, laughter, banter, the odd scrap and... perhaps too much lycra.
Looking forward twenty years might seem an eternity, looking back twenty years seems like yesterday.
I couldn't wish for a better group of colleagues and friends.

Friday, 11 July 2014

SOUTH SUDAN AND A VERY AFRICAN CHALLENGE

The White Nile leaves Uganda with a dramatic left turn and enters South Sudan and it proceeds to cut through the land, passing Sudan and eventually finishing its journey in Egypt. Its waters carry life and waste without discrimination. It knows no political boundaries, it is unstoppable like the history surrounding it.

Friday, 17 January 2014

WHY THE BALLAN SUSPENSION MAKES ME SO ANGRY

First, I welcome the suspension, that should be clear from the off.
The doping offence relates to 2009, for blood transfusions while riding for Lampre.
Lampre have been investigated since then, in the Mantova inquiry, and more will come out for sure as they go through case by case.
This has taken so long, and is still ongoing, because of lack of resources thrown at it. Add to it that Italian justice crawls to conclusion at best of times.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

PETER KENNAUGH & AN UNDERSTANDABLE FRUSTRATION



Peter Kennaugh's tweet on the injustices of how teams deal with dopers and clean riders, shows the type of frustration that permeates the world of cycling. He wrote:
@Peterkennaugh Seeldraeyers can't get a contract yet Astana more than happy to sign mpcc banned rider pellizotti

Pellizotti was suspended for two years on a doping charge. Teams adhering to the MPCC (Mouvement pour un cyclisme crédible) agree not to hire riders for a further 2 years after the suspension. Astana, a recent signatory to this Movement, have hired Pellizotti for the 2014 season but he won't race until May, when the two years after the suspension are up.
All this is within the MPCC rules, however he will be training with the team and with their kit, presumably he will be paid a salary as well.
And here comes the frustration. Many good riders, due to teams folding or rosters already fulfilled, have yet to find a contract for next season.
From the same team, Astana, an extremely good rider, Kevin Seeldraeyers, has come to the end of his contract and he's still looking for a job for 2014.
So, former doper in, clean rider out.
Kennaugh points him out, but the list is quite alarmingly big.
Now, when a horde of former dopers have a contract, feed their families, have a bright future ahead, while many clean riders have not, there lies a big moral dilemma: although rules are not broken, these guys (and I'm not particularly referring to Pellizotti, there are plenty of convicted dopers in the peloton) have a future in the sport built on their cheating; teams don't seem to see that and keep on hiring them. They get a second chance while clean riders don't even get one proper chance.

It's all good to have a group like the MPCC, but when the loopholes make a mockery of the clean riders, something needs to change.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

BOOKED! JOIN THE (FREE) BOOKCLUB

In the words of @kittyfondue, BOOKED! is a bookclub "for people who are passionately involved with books and are willing to talk about it."
The appeal of a bookclub is the challenge for people to read beyond their natural choices and discover new horizons and ideas while in this literary journey.

It's free, there are no commitments but discussion is encouraged. It is amongst friends so anything goes, no literary award will be given on the prose of the review!
One book per month.
Each member will have the chance to choose a book.
Starting on the 1st day of each month, the discussion will then be set up as a new book is decided. First book is "Instructions for a Heatwave" by Maggie O'Farrell.
If you are not able to finish a book, no problem, you can always skip the next.

The link to the club is:
https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/117123-booked

So join goodreads.com and once a member, join the club.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

ENGLAND & WALES PRISONS - MYTHS AND FACTS

Figures from the International Centre for Prison Studies show England & Wales have a combined prison population of 84,430 inmates. That is the highest in Europe, just beating Poland to the top post. When taken in consideration the rate per 100,000 citizens, England/Wales still have the highest figures in Western Europe, 148, only 4 countries from the East fare worse, Poland (217), Hungary (186), Romania (155), and Czech Republic (154).

UCI, SUBSTANTIAL CHANGES

According to cicloweb.it (http://goo.gl/dWE1Dx), the UCI has finally been at work to change the formats of rankings and various levels of professional cycling. The changes will be discussed next January 2014 so the new format should be in place for 2015 to 2020.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

ANTHILL WORLD

Scenario 1: The whole population of North, Central and South America moves to Asia.
Scenario 2: The whole of China moves to Africa
Scenario 3: The United States' population moves to Nigeria

These are the nightmare scenarios equivalent to what will happen to the World  if growing population trends continue at the current state.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

TELEGRAPH, BAD WRITING AND THE IGNORANCE AROUND CYCLING

When I read the Telegraph's article http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/active/recreational-cycling/10323653/War-declared-on-the-Lycra-louts-on-wheels.html , I let it go. I simply regarded it as yet another example of pretentious journalism, with a cheap sensationalist headline.
But this morning something happened on my commute to work and I hold journalism like that responsible for it.

Friday, 20 September 2013

MEN'S CYCLING WORLD ROAD RACE PREDICTIONS

Soon it will be another round of World Championships racing. It's the most unpredictable race of the calendar. It comes at the end of a long season and unless a rider specifically targets it and prepares for it, no chance. Team work is only partially important, mainly for the first phase, after that, legs do the talking. Although, if the team is particularly strong, it can wreak havoc and be crucial in the result (see Italy's win in 2008 and to some extent GB's win in Copenhagen in 2011).

Monday, 27 May 2013

NIBALI'S KNOCK OUT GIRO

It was always going to be a fight between Nibali and Wiggins. It didn't happen. Others tried but were too late to do something about it (Uran Uran), too unwell (Hesjedal) or simply not strong enough (Evans).

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

MY FAVOURITE ONE-DAY RACES

Top of my list it has to be Strade Bianche. It has drama, early season unpredictability, a spectacular finish set in medieval town of Siena. Pave', dust, gravel, stinging little climbs followed by dangerous descents. The winner is usually the type of rider I admire the most: Gilbert, Cancellara, Moser.



Giro di Lombardia is another race I love watching. Its hilly course and stunning views contribute to the mystique of this end-of-season monument. The Ghisallo climb is iconic in this course often mired by foul weather which adds to the epic efforts of past winners.



Brabantse Pijl is the opener for the Ardenne Classics. I believe its course is actually better than Amstel or Liege, offering a bit of all types of terrain. Even in the wet it's an exciting race to watch. Winding, cobbles, sharp climbs.



Thursday, 18 April 2013

ITALIAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS

This picture of Alfano (Pdl) and Bersani (PD) speaks volume.
Right and Left, hand in hand, sharing the spoils of a deal in the Presidential elections in Italy.
But whatever the outcome, the losers are PD (Democratic Party). They have demonstrated a lack of much sought-after transparency by keeping their candidate secret, they have been playing a game of musical chairs with Berlusconi's Pdl, Bersani has shown to be a very weak and ineffective leader and the party is split even before a government is formed.
By the way, that has been almost forgotten. No government as yet, not even remotely in the distance.
Grillo's M5S has shown at least a clarity of choice and will gather more votes in an early election.
Berlusconi has still managed to be in charge of ceremonies in the Italian Parliament.

More in-depth analysis here by +Cr Lloyd :
http://thesecondshot.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/italy-choses-president-today.html

Friday, 1 February 2013

LEONARDO'S GENIUS

Leonardo's paintings, frescos, architecture and even warfare inventions were all incredible feats of engineering, skill and flare. His meticulous observations and thirst for knowledge based on first hand study, allowed him to find techniques never seen before and hardly seen after.
Studying anatomy by dissecting corpses, he was able to translate his knowledge into his paintings and frescos, in the way limbs folded and muscles had to be shaded.
His studies in nature gave him inspirations for many inventions and architectural designs.
However, all the masterpieces of art and architecture and also all the inventions he put to practice are not for me what defined him as a genius. Outstanding and unique as all those things were, they were made and were delivered by an artist/architect/engineer of special talent. But because they were made they simply were beautiful, innovative yes, probably only possible by Leonardo alone.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

TEAMS REVIEW 2013 - MOVERS AND SHAKERS

 AG2R LA MONDIALE 
Last year's poor showing has called for some injection of talent in the shape of Apollonio, Betancur, Hutarovich and most of all Pozzovivo who will boost their chances at stage wins. Still lacking strength in the Classics department, they will certainly concentrate in performances at the Grand Tours. Belletti, Gadret, Mondory, Nocentini are confirmed. They lose Roche, Hinault and Casper (the latter has retired). Always present in the breaks but rarely on the podium, it's a team that makes you feel a change in tactics or coaching is needed.

 ASTANA PRO TEAM 
One of the most active teams in the riders' market, their strength and depth is impressive. The post-Vino era will hopefully shrug off the many suspicions about their ethics. New riders are former teammates Agnoli and Vanotti in support for new super-signing Nibali in the quest for Grand Tour glory, Fuglsang who was incredibly sidelined at Radioshack and has great potential of GC, sprinter Guardini who had a great season at FarneseVini. These riders will join an established roster: Brajkovic, Gasparotto, Gavazzi, Guarnieri, Iglinskiy, Kashechkin, Kessiakoff, Muravyev, Ponzi, Tiralongo...all capable to grab classics or stages. Kreuziger is revamping is career at SaxoTinkoff, while Kiserlovski at Radioshack.

Monday, 21 January 2013

ARMSTRONG: CONFESSION A LA CARTE

Since his first win of a Tour de France I had the suspicion that something was amiss. It seemed impossible at the time as we just had come through the Festina scandals and Pantani's downfall, surely nobody would be able to fool controls.
Then, like many, I read Armstrong's book It's not about the bike and the first bells started to ring. He was one of the first cancer patients to try EPO to recover from therapies. Cinically I thought that if he had tested first hand the benefits of this drug, it would only be logical to assume his climbing prowess came from further use of it. He hadn't simply improved his climbing, he was one of the best.
That's when I started to be suspicious.
His confession was therefore long overdue as far as I was concerned.
I was still surprised when it came though, I never thought he would ever admit to doping.
The first minute or so of Oprah's interview was all I needed. I simply wanted to hear him say Yes I doped. Everything else that followed was just mumbo jumbo of no relevance. A mixture of PR and legal censoring. He was clearly taking people for a ride when admitting to doping up until 2005 and no further, when clearly his biological passport is showing otherwise. This in turns implicates the UCI even further as cover-ups were needed to carry on racing.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

CADEL EVANS GOES MOURINHO

“Please don’t call me arrogant, but I’m European champion and I think I’m a special one.” (Jose Mourinho)
"There will be one leader, and that will be me because I have the experience and the results to back up that I can win the Tour." (Cadel Evans)


Cadel Evans' latest interview at BMC's presentation in Belgium was interesting mainly for two factors: his underlined cry for leadership at the Tour and the veiled accusation of wrongdoing by TeamSky, in particular Wiggins. 
The overall impression is that of a worried rider but one eager to show his best. 
Last year's lacklustre performance has been blamed on a virus contracted while visiting his adopted son in Ethiopia. His age also must be a worrying factor for him too as not many 36-year-olds have managed to win a Tour. 

Thursday, 10 January 2013

ITALY, THE UNFINISHED DEMOCRACY

When Italy was unified about 150 years ago, it was a political not a cultural decision. It's not just a division between North and South that conflicts with the identity of this country, it's a deeper division.
Deeply catholic, over the centuries, people identified themselves with those in the proximity of the local church, with the bell tower well in view as a reference point, like an umbrella lifted by a tourist guide to keep the flock united. Campanile is bell tower in Italian, campanilismo is therefore the term coined to describe the allegiances people have to their local areas.
Although religion has played a big part in shaping cultural identities, the main catalyst for these divisions is the territory. The geography of the land has shaped the Italian way of life more than any invading power, political and religious force. It's a divisive land. To go from the west coast near Rome to the east coast of the Abruzzi region you have to cross mountains; the same happens if you need to transfer goods from the port in Genoa to the factories in Milan. There are alpine communities as well as maritime cultures, fertile plains, cold areas, hot areas... each with their own identity.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

ECONOMY... A TAXING SUBJECT

In the last few years economy stories have moved from the financial pages in the middle of our newspaper to the front pages. We're constantly spoon-fed information we don't understand but pretend to. We are worried because the money we earn seems to devalue every week.
If we're struggling financially is because bad decisions (or no decisions) have been made for us. That's why we can blame the banks and governments (left and right) for mismanaging our resources. Financial crisis, it turns out, don't often happen for natural causes.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

GUN CONTROL

The call for a ban on guns is clearly a justified and a gallant attempt to stop this haemorrhage of death in the United States.
Mass shootings are not a prerogative of the States, we've had enough of those in Europe as well as around the world but it's not comparative to scale. There have been scores of dead in a lot of countries, what worries the most in the US is the frequency. Nearly 60 schools have had some type of shooting since 1996 and nearly 200 people dead because of that. The spread is nationwide.
But most worrying is the number of people killed in gun related incidents: over 30,000 per year, and by 2015 it is set to overtake deaths by driving.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

RESPONSE TO EXPRESS "JOURNALIST"

"Perhaps it is because my late mother had an affair with a cyclist that I have never had much time for them."
This is the start of a ludicrous article against everything that is cycling by Express "journalist" Camilla Tominey. Because of a bad personal experience, she decides that anyone on two wheels is worth degrading and humiliating. It shows a journalist who is bitter, badly informed and mostly ignorant and who takes her personal issues into her business affairs...professionally this is very poor., but let's have a look at why:

Thursday, 29 November 2012

LONDON TO PARIS FOR CHILDREN WITH MUSCULAR DYSTROPHY













On May 31 2013, I will be riding London to Paris with Channel 4 News presenters Krishnan Guru-Murthy and Jon Snow and a host of friends and colleagues.
Here's my donation page: https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/fabrizioviani1
The start will be at the Channel 4 HQ in London and we'll be heading to Newhaven, then by ferry to Dieppe, then another leg to Paris.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7G-zzBfGBts
The reason for this ride is to raise money and awareness for the Duchenne Children's Trust: http://www.dc-trust.org/about/about-us/

Sunday, 4 November 2012

RECIPE: BRITISH BEEF CASSEROLE

I absolutely love traditional British cuisine. It is underestimated here in the UK and virtually unknown abroad. With the right ingredients it is full of flavours and colour. This particular recipe is perfect for the cold weather, it's a comfy blanket dished out from the kitchen.

Ingredients:
1 tbs olive oil
500gr Aberdeen Angus diced beef
1 tbs plain flour
200g shallots or roughly chopped onions
500g chanteney carrots (mini bunched carrots) topped
400g swede cut into chunks
400g chopped tomatoes
500ml beef stock
1 sprig of thyme
250g chestnut mushrooms roughly chopped

Saturday, 3 November 2012

NUTRITION AND TRAINING FOR CYCLING

I've attended a seminar run by Daniel Lloyd (formerly of Garmin, now IG Sigma Sport) and Dr Robert Child (worked with Cervelo, Geox and Brajkovic).
There was a lot to take in and a lot of it. The part about power meters' parameters was a bit lost on me as were some of the nutritionist terms. These are just some points I've picked up that I wanted to remind myself. Any mistakes are solely mine.


- Change in the way I eat: huge breakfast, medium lunch, small dinner.
- Because I commute on the bike I have to split breakfast in two, starting with kipper or eggs and coffee, riding, then porridge and some fruit, possibly some toast with jam too.
- Lunch: Meat/fish, veg, rice
- Dinner: Meat/fish, salad
- Good for protein: Milk and eggs (antioxidants); Fish and meat (creatine, carnosine, carnitine)
- Not good: Most dairy, white bread, soy
- Omega: Fish and Olive oil (omega 3 can be taken with 3x1000mg tablets, it reduces HR, improves mood and ventilation)

Thursday, 1 November 2012

THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT

A small event that eventually becomes a hurricane. Surely not.
But it does. Actually, several smaller events (Andreu, Landis, Hamilton) eventually conflagrated in Hurricane Lance. Myths crumbled, feats were re-dimensioned, dopers fell and still falling.

The use/abuse of charity in the form of Livestrong, the lies, the deceits, the threats. The systemic use of dope. The ugliness of a sport supported for its grit and  heroic exploits.

Some riders claim it was all in the past and cycling has changed.
No it hasn't. What it has though is subsided.
There are dopers even now. It's not behind us.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

REVISED TOUR DE FRANCE WINNERS 1996-2012













1996 - Laurent Dufaux (4th) SUI
1997 - Abraham Olano (4th) ESP
1998 - Christophe Rinero (4th) FRA
1999 - Fernando Escartin (3rd) ESP
2000 - Fernando Escartin (8th) ESP
2001 - Andrey Kivilev (4th) KAZ
2002 - Jose' Azevedo (6th) POR
2003 - Haimar Zubeldia (5th) ESP
2004 - Andreas Kloden (4th) GER
2005 - Cadel Evans (8th) AUS
2006 - Oscar Pereiro (2nd) AUS
2007 - Cadel Evans (2nd) AUS
2008 - Carlos Sastre (1st) ESP
2009 - Andy Schleck (2nd) LUX
2010 - Andy Schleck (2nd) LUX
2011 - Cadel Evans (1st) AUS
2012 - Bradley Wiggins (1st) GBR

Saturday, 22 September 2012

ELITE WOMEN WORLD ROAD RACE 2012

This felt like one of those iconic races which will be remembered for a long time.
It was an incredible display of grit and strength.

It all started to unfold with a break from a small group. Commentators doubted they would be able to stay away, and that might have been the case but as they reached around 37" gap from the main peloton and only a few laps left, Dutch super rider Marianne Vos attacked, closely followed by Longo Borghini of Italy. 
Once they bridged the gap the Dutch and the Italians had two riders in the break. At that point it felt like game over for the riders chasing the group.

Vos was possessed, she had the look you only see in true champions. There was no doubt and no faltering at any time.

OF CAV AND THINGS SKY...

What made it difficult at first for Cav to say yes to Sky last year was the fact that he wouldn't be riding Specialized (he likes them and they sponsored him). Then he suddenly agreed to join them.
The agreement reached in my opinion was for Specialized to let Cav go to Sky for one year so that he could prepare for the Olympics with his TeamGB teammates, then join OmegaPharmaQuickStep (Specialized bikes), then provide bikes to Sky as payback for letting him go play with Pinarello bikes in 2014. I think it was all sorted out last year.
I don't think Sky would have been happy to lose millions of pounds in compensation just to be nice.
Cav he's going to take wins from them next year (therefore more money loss for Sky), could still be wearing a rainbow jersey, and is British hero to many.
I don't see how Cav's situation could be any better at OPQS than at Sky. Won't have a big train dedicated to him as that's not how that team is set up, most riders in that team work on their own or with one or two other riders.
So, other than going back to his main sponsor I don't see the logic in the change.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

AN OLYMPIC EFFORT

When the Olympic cycling road race and TT race routes were announced I was extremely excited. I live bang in the middle of both. One of the most important races in cycling was going to be ridden near my house. Television screens would be filled with images of roads I'm familiar with, the pros will be riding my commute to work AND some of my cycling club runs' routes (Kingston Wheelers).

Friday, 15 June 2012

WIGGLE DRAGON RIDE 2012

In the graphics department at Channel4News we're all into cycling, sometimes train together at lunchtime, so five of us plus a friend who joined us there, decided to enter the Wiggle Dragon Ride in South Wales. This is a sportive, a timed road cycling event with over 4,000 participants from all over the country and beyond.
I did this event a few years back, but it was a lot shorter and not so much climbing.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

CHILTERN 100: HOW TO RIDE A SPORTIVE WITHOUT TRAINING

The short anwer is....yes, so you don't need to read any further.
Cycling has been a major feature in our graphics department at work, it so happens that all four of us (and a few more around the newsroom) enjoy cycling and we always have eurosport in the monitors next to our working stations, to the annoyance of our fellow colleagues who have to order some graphics for the evening news.
Three of us started commuting 7 or 8 years ago, another colleague 2 years ago (but road bike only a year or so) and the latest 'recruit' is the news director with only a few months of experience.
Some of us belong to cycling clubs, done sportives (including Marmotte, Maratona dles Dolomites), trips to Paris and so on, but generally we stick to simply commuting to and from work.
Cycling fever being very contagious, we decided why not entering a sportive all together, so we planned for the Dragon Ride.

To prepare for it, so to speak, I didn't do any long rides, simply the 22km each way commute to work. I guess it can be considered a good interval training session, with the stop and start at the traffic lights, couple of hills, well ok, ramps, around or in Richmond Park, and longish stretches where, traffic permitting, is possible to go at sustained speed.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

CYCLING HALL OF FAME: THE NATIONS

Which nations are more successfull in cycling history? According to results from big races and taking in consideration the 10 best placed riders of each nations from my hall of fame http://goo.gl/VPzCY the results are mixed. The top countries are unsurprisingly Italy, Belgium and France. Although France seems to live on the glory of the past, as do The Netherlands. Spain's top riders are more from recent times and is firmly in 4th place. Switzerland was a bit of a surprise for me in 5th place. Luxembourg is an amazing little enclave considering the size of their population as they manage to sit proudly in 10th place. Australia and Great Britain have the best outlook for the future, although GB doesn't quite have 10 riders in the hall of fame as yet. Ireland only have 3 riders but when they did well, they did incredibly well with 6th and 49th top positions. Countries from the East and Latin America don't seem to have had a great impact as yet.

Monday, 20 February 2012

CYCLING HALL OF FAME: THE RIDERS

This hall of fame is compiled taking in consideration only wins, this is for two reasons. One is time, the other is that this is more about the long term legacy of single riders. I have updated this with Armstrong's downfall.
It doesn't give some riders justice, namely those incredible domestiques whose effort is crucial for their captains' wins.
This is simply for fun and to give some sense of worth in the broader view of the history of cycling. I have included most big races, some, like Tour of Poland and Turkey only from 2005 and 2007, when they acquired higher UCI status. For the same reason I've included the Tour of Beijing because despite being an awfully boring race, it hosts world tour teams, therefore will grow in status.

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

TOUR DE SAN LUIS 2012

The Tour de San Luis is not well known. Nevertheless is growing in status, with many pro and continental teams choosing to make the long trip to a different down under, almost at the same latitude as the Australian race. SaxoBank, Liquigas-Cannondale, OmegaPharma-QuickStep, AG2R-LaMondiale, Movistar, Andalucia, AndroniVenezuela, Caja Rural, Colnago-CSF Inox, Farnese-SelleItalia, Team NetApp, UnitedHealthCare, Christina Watches, and few other south American national teams. It's a good showcase of talent for riders who find it difficult to enter the European sphere for distance, money and infrastructure. The crowds at the presentations were enormous, one to rival any tour.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

TOUR DOWN UNDER 2012

Down Under Classic
Putting the problems I have about the name aside, the opening Criterium was a lively 50km race (shouldn't call a race a classic...that term is earned!). Greipel and the Lotto team showed to be on form. Greipel's speed towards the finishing line was breathtaking.

Stage 1
Another Greipel's victory, this time slightly more laboured as he had to start the final sprint from 20/25 positions down, thanks to a mighty crash about 900mt from the end. But it showed that with this form, Greipel can pick and choose his moments. After the race he had a go at Petacchi (rightly so) for veering dangerously from left to right, but he should know that those are the dangers if you're trying to nip from behind as noone is hardly going to leave a wide corridor.

Friday, 13 January 2012

IT'S ALL ABOUT THE PUNCTURES

Went to the shed yesterday morning to pick up my bike, ready for my commute to work. And there it was in all its glory...the unexpected, sneaky and cynical morning puncture.
I am a cyclist therefore I am a puncture repair expert. I have to be.
I have been riding now for nearly seven years in the streets of London, the Surrey hills, Italian and French Alps. When I started I knew nothing about bike repairs, puncture fixing. I was given a 70s Bianchi by my uncle and it had tubs. The first time I puctured luckily it was near home, so I pushed it along the pavement all the way to my local shop. I was charged £20 and it had to be done overnight as the glue needed to set. At the second puncture I decided not to risk it anymore so I changed the wheels with clinchers I had in the shed and off I went. Inevitably I did puncture and like for anything else, took it to the shop but they asked for £10 to repair, and could I go the next day as they were busy!

Thursday, 29 December 2011

BEST RIDER 2011

Picking the best overall rider for 2011 for me is extremely hard as it has been another year of amazing performances. Mark Cavendish with the Green Jersey and World Championship, Cadel Evans with a stunning a perfectly timed Tour de France victory, Alberto Contador total control of the Giro d'Italia, Cobo's gutsy ride at the Vuelta (with Froome a deserving runner up), Voeckler with hard man of the year award (and yes Hoogerland too), Hushovd at the Tour....and so on.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

MY FAVOURITE DOMESTIQUES 2011

Geraint Thomas Team Sky
All rounder domestique who, I hope, will soon be a team captain as his skills demonstrated in the spring classics bode well for the future. Strong and fast and with an increasingly good tactical sense.



Pierre Rolland Europcar
An impressive Tour de France campaign has launched this rider to new heights, very strong in the inclines and vital to Voeckler's titanic performance.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

CAV'S SPRINT


Watching Cavendish at the Revolutions' meeting at the weekend was confirmation of my theory on his sprinting. He doesn't need a train to win a sprint. He shouldn't use a train to win a sprint.
Cavendish took the win on the last race by going from the front and even though he wasn't in his best form he managed to keep the other riders behind him...and on track. Sure enough he would have loved a few gears to shift up but he still rotated those legs at just the right cadence to cross the line first. 

At the Worlds he took the win despite, yes despite, Team GB's tactics. Yes I'm the only person in the world to think that but not ashamed to admit it and if Cav hadn't had that last kick, most would have to admit Team GB's tactics had been foolish.

Friday, 18 November 2011

(SOME) PEOPLE IN POWER

There seems to be a type of person who'll always make it in high positions, be it in politics, business, religion, who have the tendency of not knowing much, being prone to gaffes and being generally clueless and obnoxious.

To name a few: Silvio Berlusconi; George W Bush; David Cameron; Pat McQuaid; Max Mosley; Nicolas Sarkozy; Sepp Blatter; Vladimir Putin; Sarah Palin

They get elected and climb up the ladder of power, and more to the point they stay there for years. They behave like buffoons, constantly make gaffes and continuously display a lack of general knowledge.

And they're still coming, look at the American election campaign, where the Republican candidates where having a debate and one of them (allegedly the top candidate) was unable to answer the most basic questions. Has he withdrawn? No. Why? Because people don't take notice of gaffes as a negative but find it amusing as they circle the various social networks and media circus.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

OLYMPICS, DOPERS AND LIFE BANS

A lifetime Olympic ban for dopers is a duty.
Unlike in various sports' federations, the Olympics has a specific message to deliver and allowing dopers back into the fold goes against those values.
The Olympics was created with the ethos of peace and inclusion.
In Ancient Greece, wars stopped for the duration of the games, enemies faced each other in healthy competitions instead of throwing weapons at each other. The purpose, to get a glimpse of equality in the eyes of the Gods, recharging and motivating patriotism by the inclusion of all. The Games have values, of freedom, peace and above all respect.
It was not meant to be for professionals to take part, but money talks and professionals are invited to take part. Money has ruined the Olympics as it has created a commercial monster, aimed at companies' wealth and trade. That has brought fierce competition which has pushed doping to stellar heights to gain results.
The only way to try retain the original spirit is to stop the win-at-all-cost attitude. That means dopers should be banned and stay banned.

MY TOP BOOKS

Arthur C. Clarke  
2001 A Space Odyssey
Science fiction's best novel. Complex, edgy and visionary. He wrote it before man landed on the Moon and he was so spot on on many of the dynamics of space travel. Spawned from a short novel, The Sentinel, it describes the finding of a beacon of sorts on the Moon. From there it's man against Machine against understanding... an endless quest.
Ronan Bennett   
The Catastrophist
Love, adventure, politics, philosophy. An Irishman goes to the Congo to be with his Italian lover. He has no interest though in the deepening independence crisis of that country led by Patrice Lumumba. His business is love.

CYCLING, THE BIG MOVERS FOR 2012

Only the big names.....

AG2R LA MONDIALE: Casper; Belletti
ASTANA: Kashechkin, Gavazzi, Guarnieri, Murayev, Brajkovic, Bozic
BMC: Gilbert, Blythe, Hushovd, Pinotti, Van Garderen, Cummings
COFIDIS: Di Gregorio
GARMIN-CERVELO: Rosseler, Rasmussen, Hunter, Wegmann, Bauer
GREENEDGE: Meyer, Bobridge, O'Grady, Weening, Gerrans, Clarke, Cooke, Vaitkus, Tuft, McEwen, Beppu, Albasini, Goss, Sulzberger, Davis, Lancaster, Dean, Durbridge, Hepburn

BOOK, ANOTHER SKY

A collection of stories, thoughts, poems, from persecuted writers from all over the world. It's published by Profile Books in association with PEN, an organisation aimed at promoting literature and freedom of expression.
The stories are most poignant and harrowing.
One example is the "little mistake" that led a writer to be close to be executed in an Iranian prison. Writer Reza Baraheni wan blindfolded and led to a hall to get food, walking with the arms on the shoulders of the prisoner in front. There he accidentally lost contact but after a struggle and panic found the shoulders again, only this time they belonged to the wrong line of prisoners. He was then led in the open and while enquiring about the different route he found out they were the prisoners about to be executed.