Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from 2014

Seven Deadly Sins: My Pursuit of Lance Armstrong by David Walsh

Cover image © Simon & Schuster UK. Being on holiday on a Caribbean island for four weeks provides ample time for getting some reading in. Anse des Sables in Saint Lucia provided a great backdrop for reading about one man’s manipulation of Le Tour de France for so many years. In Seven Deadly Sins: My Pursuit of Lance Armstrong , David Walsh introduces us to the depths of Lance Armstrong’s cheating in various races and chiefly his record-breaking seven Tour de France wins. Furthermore, he demonstrates that despite Armstrong’s name becoming synonymous with cheating in cycling recently, he cheated with plenty of help from others. Seven Deadly Sins is as much the story of Walsh as it is of Armstrong’s deception, especially as the two stories seemingly become more enmeshed as time goes on.  The book doesn’t just take aim at Armstrong; Irish cycling heros Sean Kelly and Stephan Roche also come in for criticism. Walsh talks about the rattling of pills in the back pocket

On the Beach in East Tilbury, Essex

A view up the "beach" at East Tilbury, near to Coalhouse Fort. The best thing about road cycling as a pastime is that you can literally put a pin into a map and cycle to most places - within obvious limitations .  I had little else to do on warm but hazy  Saturday 17th May  and so I decided I was going to ride to a 'beach' somewhere towards the Thames estuary. It was a month or two after returning from Uganda and I hadn't done any 'big rides' since  riding overnight from Walthamstow to Warwick in March . The conditions were: as I was riding alone, I needed ready access to a station should I have a breakdown; there had to be something of at least mediocre interest at my destination; and that I should be able to cycle there primarily on B roads. Sasha, the radar station and the marshy foreshore in East Tilbury. As things turned out, with the magic of Strava and Garmin, I ended up in East Tilbury, Essex. Granted, the village is pretty wit

Doctor No by Ian Fleming

Cover image © Penguin. Once more the summer James Bond novel tradition is resurrected. This year, with the beaches of the Asturias and Cantabria regions of Spain as my backdrop, and the promise of chorizo and sidra in the evenings to come, I set about reading Doctor No (1958) by Ian Fleming – the sixth novel in the Bond series. At the end of the previous novel , From Russia With Love , we are left with a serious doubt about whether Bond has survived. Having brought about the demise of SMERSH’s latest plot, he is poisoned and the reader is unsure about what will have become of him. Obviously, he survives thanks to some quick thinking and good luck. As part of his recuperation a slightly grumpy M decides that the warm climes of Jamaica will suit Bond where he is to clear up the small mystery of a couple of Secret Service operatives seemingly eloping and abandoning their station. Added to this is a fire at a bird reserve on Crab Key, an island off the Jamaican mainland, w

The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan

Cover image © Penguin Classics A few years back, my father went through a phase of reading a newspaper that was giving away free DVDs. For a few weekends the DVDs were all old Alfred Hitchcock films, and included the original 1935 version of ‘The 39 Steps’ starring Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll. I decided to get my hands on a copy of the novel on which the film was based. Following on from my trend of reading James Bond novels, The 39 Steps by John Buchan is, in many ways, a precursor to those novels. The flipping between fast-paced action and moments of tension, all set against a backdrop of espionage and counter-espionage, is very reminiscent of The Cold War world of Ian Fleming’s character. The novel follows Richard Hannay, a man living in London, struggling to get into the rhythm of life there after having been based in Rhodesia for a period of time.  The action starts when Hannay is approached by an American gentleman, later identifying himself as Franklin P.

In the Dead of Night

In the dead of night, moonlit country lanes are nothing more than a grey ribbon floating between the silhouetted branches of trees, tied at each end to orange orbs surrounding sleeping villages and towns. In the dead of night only your bike’s wheels whir as conversation dries up, the Garmin registers one mile intervals with ever decreasing frequency and any rattling sound goes increasingly unnoticed. When you have undertaken a sponsored ride, like London to Brighton , in order to raise money for your students you realise that, in order to get money again, you have to try something bigger the following year. So it was, inspired by the feat of four Dutch riders , I decided on a simple concept: ride from my current home in Walthamstow, London to my hometown of Warwick on a Saturday in March, in one go, overnight, starting at 10pm and arriving in time for breakfast. Two lights, two bidons, waiting for departure at 10pm in Walthamstow, London. The response was overwhelming. Not

Wiggle New Forest 100: Part Two - Godshill to Finish

Godshill to Bashley Upon leaving the first feed station in Godshill, we head out along the Southampton Road. Here, the landscape is much more agricultural and fields seem to head off into the distance over the well-kept hedgerows. A little top-up of air in the new Specialized Roubaix tyres has given my bike a bit of extra zip, especially when combined with the handful of jelly beans I’ve just eaten. The view looking over the endless heathland with wild horses. After a mile or so, we take a left onto the narrow Blissford Road and continue rolling along at a sociable 35kmh. We continue onto Abbots Well Road and the landscape begins to change again. Firstly, the neat fields lose their uniform hedges, then the fields turn to open heathland, the road begins to rise a little, before we come to a small switchback that carries the road upwards in a sudden burst.  At the top of the mini-climb we’re greeted by the sight of a dead horse. Jones has started to flag a little on the

Wiggle New Forest 100: Part One - Lyndhurst to Godshill

Late Starters Some things in life are certainties. Some things in life are less certain. Some are a combination. You can, for example, be certain that where Mr Jones is concerned, you can never be 100% certain of anything. In preparation for my first organised cycling event, accompanied by my increasingly cycling-mad friend Jonesy, I had done plenty. I’d been training up and around Epping Forest in all weathers on a route that takes you up three different climbs twice. I had been averaging around 200km a week and had given myself a three-day rest period prior to the Wiggle New Forest 100 on Sunday 6th October .  Bikes loaded and ready for a midnight dash a New Forest Holiday Inn. As it was, as Jonesy arrived in his gleaming 'pearlescent blue' Audi at 10.30pm in Walthamstow, ready for the drive to our hotel just outside of Southampton the night before our 8.30am start, I could feel the preparation slipping through my fingers. After around four hours sleep in a