Thursday, March 29, 2012

Just Like Pagliacci Did.

Hey up cockers, it's Friday Roundup time!

This week I got organized and made a list of things I needed to include in the Roundup, so hopefully this week it won't just be links to blogs I've been reading while I'm supposed to be at work. Having said that, here's a link to Monique Hanley's blog, with a bunch of suggestions on how we can support women's racing. Monique is a bona fide legend in my eyes, and always has something interesting to say about cycling. Until I discovered her blog the other day I had no idea she was so well written, however. Check it out.

Brunswick Cycling Club are starting up their Sunday Skills Sessions at DISC again, but I think it's for one Sunday only, wedged as it is between national teams training for the World Champs and some pretty serious roof repairs. So you better get down there. More information here. This is how I got my start in the sport, and look where it's taken me!

And while we're on the topic of bicycle racing, road season is gradually rolling around. Both the Northern Combine and Footscray Cycling Club have released their 2012 fixtures. Some others may have too, but the Combine and Footscray are the two that I like to ride most of all. I'd also, at this point, like suggest it's about time you stopped wasting your time with bullshit 'Gentleman's Rides' and actually pin a number on. What the hell is a 'Gentleman's Ride' anyways? As far as I can see it's a bunch of folks who want to pretend they're in a Rapha video doing a team time trial in a glamorous location without permits, sanctions or results. If anyone can educate me further on that one, please leave a comment.

Apparently Tough Mudder is on this weekend. I can't think of a bigger load of bullshit. Even a 'Gentleman's Ride' seems less pretentious. This schtick is just more invented danger for upper-middle class white folks desperate to feel like they've achieved something great by doing an obstacle course on the weekend. One of the meatheads behind CrossFit training must've realized that there were thousands of folks out there who really, really wanted to do basic training with the armed forces, but didn't want to give up their regular life. So they invented this bullshit danger-without-a-cause for bogans with no commitment.

I've said this before, but I'll update it for you. If you want danger, why don't you head down Florida way wearing a hoodie. Go campaign for gay rights in Malaysia. Go to Spain and help kick off a general strike. But don't pretend you're a tough guy because you splashed through some mud while the St John of God volunteers watched on. It might be fun, sure, and I'm down with that. But I have about as much admiration for these Tough Mudder guys as I do for folks who refer to their bike rides as "epic".

Well, for someone who is now officially on school holidays, and who is down for every session of next weekend's Track World Champs (except for maybe Thursday afternoon, during which Sean The Man may pretend to be me in order to write a piece on Bike Tech At The Worlds), and who truly loves the twin gifts that Eastertime brings [Lindt Dark Chocolate Bunnies (vegan!) and Hot Cross Buns (often vegan!)], I'm sure in a ranty mood. So let me finish up with one more seasonal item, in order for us all to finish on a more pleasant note.

I grew up in Stawell, and was a fast runner, so there was a pretty solid expectation that I would run in the Stawell Easter Gift. I gave up running before I had the chance, but I still enjoyed heading down and watching the action. For years Leith and I were able to get in for free by telling the people on the gate who our parents were, but the longer we'd lived out of town the less that worked. So instead we started just jumping the fence. It's easy to do, and it seems that because no one has ever done it before, there is next to no security keeping an eye out. It's the easiest way to get something for free, other than entering all your vegetables as brown onions in the self-serve checkouts at Coles.

See you next week, delinquents.

Recompense For All My Crimes Of Self-Defence.

I'm pretty sure I've mentioned it once or twice before, but I'm currently off the bike. Well, off the bike for the most part. When I saw the doctor he outlined a training program so restrictive that I may as well be off the bike. This week, for example, I'm allowed three thirty minute rides on non-consecutive days. That's an hour and a half for the whole week - quite the step back from the twenty hour weeks I was doing. So I currently have a bit of spare time.

Some of that, obviously, is spent typing out these missives, which have come out every weekday since mid-January. That's a lot of written content, so I've started to share the load around a bit, but that means that my "too much spare time" problem rears up again. I've started writing for other folks, doing media work, and promoting said work on the internet, but there ain't a whole lot of that I can do either. Certainly not eighteen and a half hours worth.

So I find myself being drawn back to the track. I know that Brunswick is racing track on Tuesday night, so I wander down. DISC is only three blocks from my house, Harrison Street Velodrome only a couple more, so it's not heaps out of my way. I know there'll be a bunch of folks I know there, and also know that the racing is only a small part of being there. Missing the racing, though it sucks, isn't so bad.

But it's never enough for me to just sit there and talk shit. I always, for some reason, feel the need to sit on the desk, take the results, count lap, talk to riders about their skills. Perhaps it's the teacher in me stepping out, perhaps I'm just naturally inclined to put myself in positions of power, but I think it's also that I need to be involved, somehow.

Even when I'm not racing, I want to know more about racing. I want to watch, and learn, and figure stuff out. Seriously, I'm a total fucking nerd on this shit. And not like one of those Hollywood nerds, like on Big Bang Theory. I'm one of those lonely nerds who turns up to watch track races by themselves. A few extra kilos, a few extra pimples and late onset colourblindness and the picture would be complete.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

You're Such A Bore, 1984.

As a teenager, I always hoped that despite my lack musical ability I would one day be offered the opportunity to guest program rage. On an old laptop at my ma's house, there are various playlists I'd typed up with my best friend because if I was guest programming rage it was going to be with her in our non-existent, super famous band. I wanted this to happen so badly that I even thought about how I would introduce that clip that inspired me or influenced me. I didn't seem to want it badly enough to pick up a guitar and actually start a band though.

This morning, despite my lack of cycling ability (and my sometimes questionable music taste) the good folk at The New Timer have asked me to guest program what has been previously referred to as the least popular regular post on the blog, La Musique Mercredi. Thanks guys, way to make dreams come true! Here goes.

A couple of weeks ago, I saw this band live and they blew my tiny mind. Their record has been on repeat pretty much ever since.

Let's face it, aside from Portlandia I am such a Carrie Brownstein fangirl that I think pretty much anything she touches is gold. Even this late Sleater-Kinney track from their last record.

So much excellent music came out around this time. For a while there, every single house party I went to the next song would come on the stereo. The chorus would come around and people in the middle of conversations would just yell along, then go back to whatever they were talking about. It's also an excellent song to jump around your lounge room to so if no one is home, you should totally turn it up.

Yep, that's them playing at a pool. Nice red shorts huh? I bet that sunburn tickled the next day! Here is another song that I recommend jumping around the lounge room to.

And I'm going to wrap this up with a Minor Threat clip. Holy shit Minor Threat rule! Sometimes I feel like I totally should have gotten a Minor Threat tattoo instead of my Black Flag bars. Can I have both? I don't know. Here's a cover, and like some youtube troll said "This distortion is a fucken eargasm."

I couldn't have said it better myself, youtube troll.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Please Don't Freak.

No post today folks, unless FJ decides to take up the slack.

What can I say? Sometimes life gets in the way.

We'll return to normal programming on Wednesday. In the meantime, if you're desperate for a dose of Brendan, check out here.

Be excellent to each other.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Torment Is What I Give.

As we teeter on the brink of a fourth Heavy Metal Monday, we can be thankful for one thing: that gross blister thing in Brendan's last post is now gone from the top of the blog page. Praise be!

As the name of this blog segment suggests, I really like heavy metal. Before I was a full blown mediocre racing cyclist, I was a full blown, dye in the wool metal head. I had awesome long hair, a whole collection of sleeveless band shirts (which weren't embarrassing to wear, because I had no tan lines) and, being the pre-vegan days, a sweet bikie style leather jacket that jingled pleasingly as I walked the streets. All my money went toward records, shows and obscure patches (which i would then ask my mum to sew onto my sweet denim jacket).

I would probably still refer to myself as a metal head, but on face value you would be forgiven for disagreeing. I have razor sharp tan lines, no hair on my legs, and a vague helmet strap tan line down my face. I don't go to as many shows any more and, sadly, my hair is no more.

Which leaves the music as my only real connection to the old days. Sure, I listen to a lot of hardcore now, and my tastes in metal have probably drifted towards blacker stuff, in contrast to the thrash till death tastes I had when I was a teenager.

With this in mind I present you with the metal that still resonates with me, or perhaps resonates even more, in light of my racing habits.

Crit racing is nearly done for this season. As any one who has raced a crit will know, they are generally fast paced, aggressive, and tactically difficult. Perfect thrash music! I still listen to hard and fast music before a crit race, just to get in the mood. Here we have Kreator, doing what they do best:

Kreator are what's called Teutonic thrash. Which basically means they come from Germany. I lost a chunk of hair in a Kreator pit, which I didn't notice until after, when I noticed my scalp was bleeding.

Then we have road racing. That's kinda different. Longer, more difficult, more taxing mentally, and usually colder. You don't want something too fast, you'll burn out too quick. You want something steady, with occasional bursts of anger. Like Death.

I've spoken about Death before. They changed my life to some extent (as much as death metal can change your life, ya know), showed me what music could achieve. This song is also the most viciously passionate case for assisted euthanasia I have ever come across. Also, sweet Charlie's Angels intro.

Then there is training. When I ride by myself in the summer, all I want to listen to is Blink 182 and Fugazi. But that's punk and I try and leave that to the experts. When it's winter, though, and the miles are long and the temperatures low, nothing beats ravishing grim black metal, to get you through the winter miles:

No live footage because most good black metal bands don't play no life music. Usually because there's only one or two of them. Or maybe the evil mystique would be ruined when the fans realise the dudes are just lonely men who live in an apartment in Oslo, listening to Testament B sides. But anyway, Darkthrone. Amazing band. Transilvanian Hunger is possibly one of my favourite songs of all time. The other day I was listening to this while on the dirt backroads of Epping, as the rain clouds came through from the west. It was such a small thing. But it made an annoyingly mundane thing, like it raining, into a stupidly exciting thing. I think I started laughing manically. Then some tradie in a ute looked at me funny and tried to run me off the road.

I could list more bands that I listen to, but that would be boring. Given this blog used to be about punk rock, and is now about cycling, a culture within which lots of punks find themselves, there isn't much chance anyone likes this stuff but me. But this stuff is what shaped my view of the world, to a certain extent, and stuff that has been given a new lease on life, from the perspective of bike racing.

And so I leave you with a clip from the best band in the world. This music is for anytime and every time. God damn Slayer.

Until next week, thrash 'till deth, etc.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

For Decades.

Well gross me out, it's time for the Friday Roundup. Apparently that's a Blister Roundup right there. Surely I'm not the only one here who wants to pop the hell out of that thing? No, didn't think so?

Hey, while we're speaking of gross things, here's Great Britain's kit for the Olympics. And you thought Michelle was the worst thing inflicted upon the world by the McCartney family.

On to slightly less horrific things, St Kilda Cycling Club have finally unveiled their comprehensive list of who is in what grade. I simply cannot comprehend how monumentally boring this must have been, and significant kudos must go to the accountant-types who finally put it together. It's an interesting initiative on their part, and I'll be interested to see how it pans out. Also, I'm kinda stoked to discover that, despite not having ridden my bike for longer than 30 minutes for the past three months, I'm still a confirmed A grader. Take that, FJ!

It seems that the good people at Onitsuka Tigers, as well as making some vegan versions of their shoes, were in town when BikeFest was on, and they made this sweet video. I'm in it. That makes it worth watching.

Melbourne Bike Fest from Onitsuka Tiger Australia on Vimeo.

Ok, I'm just going to assume that'll show up when I press publish.

And while we're on the topic of people coming to town, superstars from the track teams of various countries are starting to roll in. Last week the Japanese and Belgian teams rolled up to Sandown to make the crits even more difficult than usual, and today Cycling Victoria posted this on YouTube. Which was kinda rad, because I didn't know they knew how to use YouTube!

I reckon, if you have a bit of spare time, and are in the neighbourhood, it'd be worth popping into DISC over the next couple of weeks. You never know who you might see. Actually, that's always the case. One time, a few years back, returning to school from a bike-based excursion, a student and I dropped in, and were pretty impressed to see Perko training there. Of course, a few weeks later, when Perko flipped the bird on an international stage, I heard all about it.

Amy Bradley is one of our favourites here at The New Timer, due mostly to her heroic efforts in the 2011 Cyclocross Season. She has a blog, and has finally updated it. Check it out here.

And while I'm linking to rad individuals who also ride bikes, here's Lisa Dempster. I think I've linked to her before, but I don't care, I'm going to again. You're not the boss of me. Lisa's not a pro athlete or anything, never rode her bike more than a daily commute, but last year decided she was going to ride her bike across the Nullabor. As you do. I highly recommend also following her on twitter, as her interests are many, varied and always thought-provoking.

One of my favourite Melbourne bands, True Radical Miracle, are launching a record next Friday night! See that picture on the front cover of the record? That used to be my bedroom. I'm totally going to pay my respects by breaking my self-imposed hermitage and leaving the house. Leith would probably kill me if I didn't.

Well, that'll probably do for this week, folks. I hope you've been enjoying The New Timer as we settle into our familiar routine. We'll be like that cosy blanket you wrap yourself in as the weather turns to shit. We promise.

A Turret Beneath The Sea.

Because this was so wildly successful the first time around, and because it's much easier than typing out the mini-essays, we now present to you the second ever edition of "Brendan and FJ talk pro cycling." Yes, we do realize that this segment would probably work better as a podcast, but no, we do not have the technical expertise to make that happen. If you do, well, you know where to reach us.

B: So, FJ, this is our second ever "Brendan and FJ talk pro-cycling" segment. How do you think the first one was received?

FJ: Well, everyone I've talked to said it cracked them up. They might be lying, but my friends wouldn't do that to me. Then again, they didn't leave any comments like: "This made me lol", or, "Fuck you man, get a clue, and stop ragging on that Aussie team".

I like to think Stuey O'Grady read it and had a chuckle.

B: Speaking of that Aussie team... Both of us were skeptical at the start of the year, but I've since recanted. You, however, seem unrepentent. Surely their 4 recent wins have forced you to reconsider?

FJ: Sure, I've reconsidered, but I figure it is better to stand my ground. Then, after Gerro has peaked, O'Grady has become disoriented from someone speaking too quickly, and Goss has failed to impress, then I can finally say I told you so to all the people that want them to win. It's too early to recant. Sure, they won some bike races, but as a casual cycling fan with next to no knowledge, everyone knows the seasons starts and ends with the Tour. Unless GreenEDGE win every stage, every jersey, and pop a mono over the finish line in Paris, I will consider their first seasons as a team a failure. Still, gotta hand it to Gerro, he's pretty good at nabbing sneaky wins. I'm told it was a sneaky win by someone on the internet. Apparently, in racing, you should let the guy who does all the work get the win, even if he has the tactical astuteness of Cavandish during a nature break.

B: We can't keep talking about GreenEDGE forever, so I'm going to change the topic. What do you think about the shambles at the Volta a Catalunya? First they shortened the stage due to snow, then, when 40 something riders pulled out, they said the stage might not count.

FJ: Wow, that's rad, I had no idea. There's an interesting lesson there though. With enough riders gone, even the officials admit that the whole exercise is pointless. I wonder what the tipping point would have been? Why did they pull out? Were the conditions really awful? Was there a blizzard?

B: Yeah, there was lots of snow. They'd already shortened the stage, cutting out the last two climbs. You won't be surprised to hear Andy Schleck was one of the forty something to DNS or DNF.

FJ: Yeh, his stomach was probably full of anger, like that time when his chain dropped. I dunno, I feel like he has the 'eternal second' aura about him. I feel like a right tool claiming a pro is lacking in guts, but I feel that Andy lacks a certain guttiness.

Then again, he is so skinny, any temperature under, like, twenty degrees, would probably send him into a bear like hibernation, where he retreats to his mother and fathers house, mumbles about that Spanish bastard, drinks a lot of soup. I feel like he was probably coddled as a boy. Not Frank though, he was probably too busy getting drunk. He used to be a bike courier, so this is a safe assumption.

B: I heard that this year Johan Brunyeel has been sending Andy and Frank to seperate races, in order to reduce their reliance on each other. The little babies. Definitely overrated riders, even if they'd likely destroy the field at a Northern Combine race. I've been thinking a lot about overrated riders today. Tyler Farrer in particular keeps getting sweet leadouts, big-ups in the media, and a lot of attention, but doesn't even crack the podium in the bigger races. Who else do you reckon is a bit overrated, FJ?

FJ: See this is tricky, cos I don't know names. But I'm going to go out on a limb and say Bradley Wiggins. Yeh, I have read numerous articles that say this is HIS YEAR, but I just refuse to believe a man with ankles that skinny can win a grand tour. He seems like a loveable enough chap, but I just don't see winner material.

My second choice is considerably more controversial: Mark Cavandish. To be sure, dude is pretty quick when he wants to get somewhere first, but he just has this habit of getting dropped. Sure, he's a sprinter you say, it's not his specialty. Well, tell that to Thor Hushovd. He's heavier than Cavandish and still mixes it up occasionally on the smaller climbs. I guess I just don't have much time for those riders who are highly, highly specialised. Yeh, the man is fast, but I want to see him to be able to rip up the bunch, and take a small climb with the small guys, not just be the fastest over 300 metres with a perfect lead out train. It's more entertaining for us, but also garners more respect from us as well. I guess this is why everyone is so obsessed by Jens Voight. He kinda does a bit of everything and then says something funny.

B: See, I'm the opposite. I like Cav because he's reliable - if you drop him off at 200 to go, he's going to get the job done. I also like Wiggins, because of that interview he did about how much he likes The Jam.

I'd like to turn our attention to track racing for a second, FJ. The Track World Champs are coming up, and The New Timer staff - ie, you and me - are going to be there for every session. Now, you're famously uneducated when it comes to the boards, so I'm going to keep these questions simple. We'll start with this: which events are you keen to watch?

FJ: Is track riding where they ride fixies?

B: Yes

FJ: Yeh, thought so. Look, I'm not going to lie. When I go watch the track racing, my mind wanders within about three laps, so I rely on experts like you and Gene to prompt when I should yell, cheer, or boo indignantly.

Being a roadie, I really enjoy the enduro events. So things like the madison get my attention. Not only because the riders are usually roadies too, and thus have high socks, but also because there seems to be more subtle shenanigans going on, more nuance. That, and I can have a conversation with cool people for a good forty laps, and return to the race, and not all that much has changed; ie: they're still racing around in circles, and Gene is still yelling "Carn boys!".

What about you Brenno? You used to be a bit of a sprinter back in your early track days. You like the short stuff?

B: Surprisingly, I don't really rate the sprints. These days, when big gears reign supreme, folks don't throw feints and bob and weave like Ali any more. They just fuck around, then it's a drag race for the last 200m.

I don't got beef against the sprinters, though. I fucking love watching the keirins. Five and a half laps of foreplay, then two and a half laps of hard and rough intercourse.

I also really rate the madison, despite there still, for some reason, not being a women's one. It's probably the most tactical race, and there's always a lot going on.

Funnily enough, though, even though it has it's haters, I like the omnium. There are a lot of reasons not to like it, but there's one excellent reason to love it - the elimination race. It's the one where the last person past the finish line each lap is out of the race, and is colloquially known as "Devil Takes The Hindmost". Don't that just have a nice Deep South ring to it? I can almost taste the collard greens. It'll also feature some of the most ridiculously tight racing you'll ever see.

When we're down there, do you think we'll run into Anthony Tan? That'd be sweet. I'll ask him about Coldplay. I bumped into Matt Keenan at the Austral. He complimented me on my Public Enemy tattoo and we had a good chat about them. Do you reckon I should make Musique Mercredi all about what music cycling personalities listen to?

FJ: Man, I would love to chat to Anthony Tan, but more so too Matty Keenan. He would the A grade Northern Combine 3 day tour in '99, so maybe i could get some sweet racing tips from him. That would be rad.

I reckon you should definitely look into cycling personality's music tastes. I bet there would be heaps of curve balls. I mean we know O'Grady loves the tekkers, but I just feel like Napalm Death is gonna be a favourite of the sprinters, and some of the enduro riders are gonna really dig Shellac.

I bet Phil Ligget is into Anal C**t (the band).

B: I'm sure he loves the puns. And he'd look good with a moustache!

On that note, and because dinner is ready, I'm going to call it a day there FJ. Thanks again for taking the time to share your insights with us!

FJ: No, thank you. I feel I wasn't quite as funny or offensive this time around but, sometimes, you just gotta deal with pro cycling seriously.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

I Bet You Got A Boy.

A quick view of the stats for this blog reveals La Musique Mercredi to be the least popular recurring segment of The New Timer. I kinda understand why - it's ostensibly a cycling blog, so people are obviously not coming here for a hit of rad tunes. I think it's healthy though, to focus on something else every now and then.

So here's a clip from one of the best live bands I've ever seen, singing a song with one of the best Sweet Victory Parts I've ever heard, in footage that I'm only now seeing for the first time. Man, it's crazy good. The singer is obviously drunk, fucks up the words, looks kinda Unabomber crazy. Everyone else in this clip is losing their shit. I saw this band in Montreal back in 2001. They, along with The (International) Noise Conspiracy, were supporting At The Drive In. After this band played At The Drive In seemed so boring that I left.

Of course, The Noise Conspiracy were pretty good too, even if their schtick dated pretty fast.

This was around the time that underground bands wanted to be The Rolling Stones. Even Dischord bands!

At the time, though, I didn't much rate those bands, because I was busy listening to a lot of really earnest stuff that sounded like this:

And even a little bit of Weezer. Funny story about Weezer, though. I saw The Sweater Song on Rage late one night and it kinda blew my mind a little bit. So I went up to Stawell's only record store, Total Music, and ordered it in. For months I went in once or twice a week, only to be told it still hadn't arrived. Eventually I gave up. Then, about a year and a half later, they called me up and told me it was there. I told them I was sorry, but these days I only listen to fiercely political punk rock, and was no longer interested in little indie boys whining about their lives.

Which was true, at the time. But it meant that I missed out on about five years of listening to this:

Thanks folks.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien.

Today I received this message from Casey:

"I believe I will be doing a gloat dance when I get home. I will be mixing it up with a bit of "Told You So" shuffling. GreenEDGE rule!"

(Actually, she left out the stupid punctuation, but I added it back in, out of spite)

The GreenEDGE cycling team have been quite the topic of disagreement in our household. I've long been a skeptic, firmly believing the rule that it takes about three seasons for a new cycling team to come together (which I believe is now known as the Team Sky rule). But Casey has been on the bandwagon from day one. "Look at the riders they signed! Bobridge! Meyer! Howard! Stuey O'Gready! They're going to be unstoppable!" Sure, it seems strange, in hindsight, that she didn't mention Gerro, but I get the impression that Gerro's baby face doesn't do much for her.

Now, in light of the results from the weekend, Casey seems to believe that it's time for me to eat my words, or at the very least sit and watch while she prances around doing her "You Were Wrong" dance (Which, incidentally, is perhaps the most performed dance in this household, possibly second only to my "Play The Cat As A Guitar" dance. And, before you ask: Yes, in this house, most debates are settled by dance, especially debates about pro cycling).

But to be fair on me, I never really said GreenEDGE would suck. This probably sounds like revisionism after the fact, but I simply said that while they have a number of riders with a lot of potential, they will take some time to gel as a team. And in order to win races, your team needs more gel than Phillipe Gilbert's hair. What I overlooked, I guess, was that these blokes were already riding together a lot - most of them live in the south of France, the north of Spain, or the middle of Monaco, which is so small it does not have points of the compass - and they train together on a pretty regular basis. They also come together once a year for the World Champs, and, with two podium places in the last three years - one on the top step - have proven that they're pretty good at it.

Like Casey, I also overlooked Gerro. I dunno, perhaps because everyone in Melbourne rides his dick like he's Feminist Ryan Gosling or something I had some weird anti-populist backlash, and this - compounded with a relatively quiet 2011 on his part - made me forget that he's a little guy who knows how to win bike races. I mean shit, the dude has won stages of every grand tour. Sure, there are only three grand tours, and there are a lot of stages in each of them, but there's also about two hundred other guys in each stage trying to beat you. So it's an impressive achievement, and one which should've been more indicative to me.

I guess I was also pretty annoyed by the Australian media, who are renowned for being parochial to the extreme. While Matt White, Neil Stephens and even Gerry Ryan himself were playing down the chances of the team winning a bucketful of races this year, the media were implying that they were going to be more successful than Eddy fucking Merckx. These inflated expectations, which I suggested earlier was due to confirmation bias - in which we only get information on Australian riders, and so therefore think they're the best in the known universe - were annoyingly unrealistic. Or so I thought. And, guessing by the undertone of surprise and shock in this video, the staff at GreenEDGE thought so too.

So here goes. I was wrong about GreenEDGE. Sure, they have stupid punctuation. Sure, anyone who buys their kit probably also secretly owns a replica of the Australia jacket Bob Hawke wore the day Australia won the America's cup. Sure, most of them look like they'd enjoy the odd bewg here and there. And sure, the riders Casey mentioned are young, with their best years ahead of them. Which is why I'm slowly coming around. Finally, GreenEDGE are starting to give me the impression that, like most edge things, they're going to be pretty good.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

My Touch, Inhumane.

Welcome to the third Heavy Metal Monday!

I was meant to train this morning, but I didn't, because I felt real ill. I still do, so I'll have to keep this brief. It might have something to do with the post 4pm sushi I had yesterday, or it might be related to the mouldy water bottles I insist in drinking from.

Instead, I did a bit of reading. While I was doing that, I came across these words by Jean Bobet, a French professional cyclist during the fifties, speaking about the riding he he did with his brother (another professional cyclist) in their later years.

Speed was no longer in our repertoire. We took pleasure elsewhere: with less violence, and more subtlety. Occasionally, we would even chance to catch a scent or a snatch of the volupte of yesteryear. With the wind at our backs, the intoxication was such that we almost took ourselves for the Bobet brothers. When the wind turned, we were somebody else entirely.

Which got me thinking about the various games of fantasy we act out whilst on the bike. Being confident in a race is as much deluding yourself as to your form, as it is being fit and strong. Riding alone, or with a tail wind that we forget is there, it's very easy to con ourselves into thinking we are faster than we actually are. And this isn't something that ends as you get better either.

When I first started riding racing bikes, when I was about fifteen, pretty much every one would zip past me on the road, as I flailed about trying to go twenty kilometres an hour. Fast track some eight years later, and not much has changed. Sure, I'm a lot smoother, and a bit faster, but when the A graders pass me like I'm standing still, despite my honest exertions, its very much a case of having the wind taken from your sales.

Out training, you are the best bike rider in the world, until the faster bunch passes you, and leaves you literally eating their dirt. It's good to be reminded that you are nothing special, insofar as it stops you from becoming a dick, but at the same time, it's probably good to have these solo flights of fancy occasionally. Sometimes, it's good to find yourself in the dirt back roads of outer Epping, hands clenching the top of your bars, pretending you are Cancellara, about to win the Roubaix. Genuine love of riding aside, a lot of what I do on the bike is a simple acting out of sports fantasies that will likely never be realised (though I am still waiting on the call from Drapac...).

I could make various conclusions about the fact that the simple act of riding a bike is a great equaliser, whereby we can immediately see ourselves in the greater exploits of cycling's heroes, but I won't, because I think I'm about to go vomit.

Keeping on topic, here is Morbid Angel's 'Blessed are the Sick". The record of the same title this song comes from is fucking bona fide classic early 90s Florida death metal. If you're like Brendan, and not into that this stuff, you should change your ways.


Saturday, March 17, 2012

Somebody To Treat Me Right.

Another year, another track season done. The final track open for the year was the Austral, and it showed all the hallmarks of coming at the end of a long season. The racing was hard, the racing was scrappy, and serious folks with longer-term objectives took home the goodies.

DISC filled up quickly. The smell of coffee was in the air, and the good folks at the mobile espresso machine were doing a roaring trade. I'd hooked up a Media Pass with Cycling Victoria earlier in the week, and so was able to wander aimlessly through the crowd, the infield, even once across the track itself. I shook hands, made small talk, inquired about the sensations riders were feeling in their legs. There was last minute gear changes occurring as folks got the feel of the track - it wasn't particularly fast itself, but the racing was hard, and those able to push bigger gears benefited.

The bookie was there and taking small bets. Ollie Phillips was starting the day at twenty-five dollars, and when word of this went around the track money was laid down until he found himself at ten to one. He seemed quite chuffed. Glenn O'Shea was at three to one, but had been backed into odds that made it not worth betting by the time the final started.

There were other races, however. The first was the women's scratch race, an alleged 'heartstarter', where Netti Edmondson set the tone for the rest of the women's races for the evening. Taking a lap early wasn't enough for the soon-to-be Olympian, and with six to go she began to set herself up for the sprint. A rider had fallen earlier, however, and in the process of rejoining the race spurted up on to the track, forcing Edmondson to take evasive action. This seemed to be her only concern in the race - five laps later she had taken it out.

The A Grade Scratch Race was up next - another 'heartstarter'. I still have no idea what that means. Were these races less important? Did they pay less money? I'll never know. This race was pretty mellow, though, as it seemed riders were saving themselves for the Austral. O'Shea showed his intentions, however, stepping out from thirty metres back to take the win by twenty. That's some fierce acceleration, alright.

In this race, however, is Adrian Sansonetti, one of the Sansonetti brothers who run BT. After a long layoff he has come back to the track, and it somehow seems like he has never left. Chatting to him later he tells me that his priorities have changed a little, that family and friends are probably more important to him now than racing is, but he needed to keep fit somehow, and loves to mix it up with the boys. He's modest about his earlier achievements, and talks openly about how much winning the Austral - which he was never able to do - means to people.

Interspersed with the graded races were the Junior National Scratch Race Championships, but I'm going to leave them out, because there were so many crashes in these races that it would've seemed more like a horror story than a race report. Some fast kids beat some other fast kids, and most of them fell over. It had been a long week of racing for the kids, and it sure as hell showed.

In the B Grade Scratch Ollie went on the whistle - a reliable move on his part, but it seemed to take the bunch by surprise. He's been doing a lot of motorpacing out on the road, and has the endurance to go it alone, but he was pulled back after a couple of laps and the bunch sat up. Ben Ables was sitting nicely on his wheel, and seemed to be itching to unleash the fury of his impressive sprint. Which, at one and a half to go, he does. And is untouchable. It's the only Brunswick win of the night, despite Matt Keenan suggesting that "Everyone racing for Brunswick tonight has been aggressive."

C grade were up next, and proved that crashing was not solely the province of the Juniors. For the first time in my experience of track racing, Stu Vaughn, the powerhouse from Hawthorn, hit the deck. When asked afterwards whose fault the crash was, Vaughn simply replied, "Not mine," his unwillingness to comment further speaking volumes. There were more serious matters at stake, however - in the crash a Warragal rider had lost a finger, which, while eventually located, was unable to be reattached later in hospital. An unfortunate memento of the Austral, sure, but they breed them tough down Warragal way, so he'll be back. Just a few grams lighter.

Then came the invitational sprint finals. While Azizul Awang showed that he was once again pushing close to peak "mono-across-the-line" form after his nasty splinter incident, it was Blackburn's Emerson Harwood who impressed the punters, shoving his way through an international field to take home second place. He's still very young, but is definitely going places.

The Austral Heats were up next, determining who had already wasted some money with the bookies. These were quickly followed by the Junior Australs, which were once again marred by a number of serious crashes. I wasn't paying attention at the time, looked away for a couple of minutes, and when I looked up again there were bodies laying on the ground everywhere. Safety obviously hadn't been a big issue for the kids in the week previous - there had not been a single crash until the Saturday evening, despite a full week's racing - but once they started dropping, they dropped like flies.

Ollie Phillips getting a helping hand from Solution Steve Duggan in the Austral Heats.

Sam Crome, all of 18 years of age, has been in blistering form this year, and last night was no exception to this rule. He had a hard time in the scratch races, battling it out with an almost entirely international field, but it's in the handicaps where he comes into his own. Looking more like a roadie than a trackie (despite allegedly not going so great on the road), he has the acceleration and endurance to push all they way through a handicap, then kick at the end. He made it through to the final comfortably, sitting up for fourth in his heat.

In the first ever Women's Austral Netti Edmondson was the obvious favourite, but was stuck at the back of the bunch with a handful of sprinters, so there were some definite doubts about the likelihood of making up the ground. And for a while this was how it worked out - the front group were working well together, and when Apryl Eppinger hit the bunch on the bell it looked like she would stay away. The former sprinter Edmondson had other ideas. From the back of the scratch bunch, fifty metres behind Eppinger, she hit the gas and ran past Apryl with barely a blink.

I'd seen her earlier in the crowd - her family was sitting next to some friends of mine. They'd gushed over her performance in the scratch race and she'd blushed a little, shying away from the compliments. This season has been her breakout season, still in progress, and it's almost as if it has taken her by surprise.

In the 118th Men's Austral Final (anyone else see an issue there?) Ollie was off 165 metres, with only three guys in front of him. One of them was Stu Vaughn, always a handy bloke to work with in a handicap, if he had recovered fully from his earlier time on the deck. Sam Crome and Adrian Sansonetti were off 90 and 95 respectively, and were definitely working together for the win. With them was VIS rider Luke Parker. O'Shea was riding off scratch, and had a gap of twenty metres to make up before a big line of riders, all of whom everyone in the house assumed were working on O'Shea's behalf.

Riders leaned against their pushers, clenching their fists and taking final deep breaths. The commissaire clipboards rose into the air one by one. Matty Keenan called, "Attention Riders!" and the gun went. The front group, Ollie leading the way, were together and rolling half lap turns before the echo subsided, but there were six middlemarkers, including Crome and Sansonetti, all together and gaining fast. The backmarkers looked a little disorganized, and weren't with the bunch until two to go. The catch was on, they were all together, but O'Shea was still at the rear of the bunch. Ollie had popped, spent too much time trying to keep the frontmarkers away. Sansonetti had disappeared, his job done for the night. Sam Crome was still in the mix, Luke Parker hot on his wheel. With 80 metres to go Parker hit them and hit them hard. Crome chased him and O'Shea tried to do the same, but was pushed high on the banks, the traffic conspiring against him. At the front of the race Parker kept pushing until the last five metres, when he looked around, saw that there was only Crome behind him a few metres back, then raised his hands in celebration. Switzerland's Franco Marvulli, continuing his rich vein of form, came home in a rush to take out third.

It was an interesting win for Parker, who is perhaps the journeyman of the VIS squad, often overshadowed by his world champion teammates Alex Morgan and Jaron Gardiner. But he is, occasionally, able to pull out unexpected victories. Tonight was one of those nights.

Unusually, there were still more races to come. In the C Grade scratch Stu Vaughn made up for his crash in the first race, staying at the front and out of trouble until the last lap, where he used his sheer power to blast away for the win. The B Grade scratch race was the only race of the night to feature a successful breakaway, and again it was Ollie the aggressor, with Josh Harrison and Japan's Iyori Nishizawa first going with him, then both outsprinting him.

Stu Vaughn keeping out of trouble.

Two invitational Kierin races followed, with the women up first. You already know who won. She went on the bell, sat up a little out of turn two, saw Malaysia's Fatehah Mustapha coming at her, then hit the afterburners to win by a bike length. With the men up next it was expected to be an all-Malaysian affair, and the crowd was not surprised when Awang hit out with a lap to go. It was hipster favourite Josiah Ng on his wheel, though, and with fifty to go the more experienced Ng hit his teammate and didn't look back, taking another win out of Awang's hands.

The final race of the evening was the Victorian Men's Scratch Race Championship. I did this race last year, and was aiming at it again this year, before I pushed things a little too hard and ended up on my back for six months. The bunch was largely the same - a smattering of internationals, a sprinkling of riders from state institutes, a couple of randoms, and Glenn O'Shea. And the race generally followed the same pattern as last year - a few breaks, not much getting away, then an O'Shea attack that screws everyone else out of the win. This year he hit them with five to go, and quickly had one hundred metres on the bunch. The race seemed over, until the big Swiss Marvulli started chasing. He hadn't seemed in the greatest of shape until now, his head wobbling, his elbows and knees flailing about at all angles. But chase he did, and gained on O'Shea until the Bendigo boy only had fifty, then forty, then thirty metres. There simply wasn't enough track for Marvulli, however, and O'Shea crossed the line with his hands in the air, adding another couple of hundred bucks to his appearance fee.

Matty Keenan grabbed O'Shea quickly for a post-race interview, but the night had stretched out a bit, and the venue emptied quickly. In the back straight there was talk of gathering to watch Milan-San Remo, and eventually a plan including live internet streaming and copious amounts of coffee was hatched. Four hours later Simon Gerrans would take the win for GreenEDGE, and the doubters - including me - would once again be silenced.

Pics C/O Dave Hogan. At the point of writing these pics were used without permission, but I'm sure he'll be fine with it when he gets back to me. More available here.
For more Austral results see here.
For MSR results see here.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Your Mama Won't Know You.

Mosey on over this a ways, pardner. It's time for the Friday Roundup.

First pony in the ring is the Austral, which is totally this Saturday. TDR superstar and friend of The New Timer Solution Steve will be racing, and is so chronically underconfident that he totally needs you to come down and lend him your support. May your obnoxious heckling be the wind beneath his wings.

On a non-cycling note, I've mentioned Vegan Warrior Emily Jans before, but I'm going to mention her again, because she's just started her own blog. Somehow deftly managing to tie together the seemingly disparate worlds of being a punk, a vegan, and an elite level athlete, click through to get an insight into Janno's world. I especially like her Feature Fans section. I'd copy it for this site, but after I wrote about FJ I'd be done. And I already gave him his own column.

And while we're on the topic of rad links, some loveable doofus I know started up this blog after being inspired on a wet ride to the gym - a ride he only had to make because I wouldn't come out of my way to pick him up. Now that the weather is getting colder, it seems appropriate. I'm morally opposed to Tumblr, but I'll make an exception here. Oh, and maybe for Chaz's, which I actually read, almost as much as I read Yo, Is This Racist?

As well as the Austral, tomorrow brings us a cornucopia of bike related events. Anyone would think it's still BikeFest or something! Tomorrow evening there's a rad BMX jam... Tomorrow arvo there's the aforementioned Northside Knowledge... And, of course, there's still the Chasing Rainbows exhibition that every man and his dog is blogging about. I'm pretty sure this is the last weekend of BikeFest, so enjoy it while you can.

Last of all, friend of The New Timer and total superstar Rachel Oakenfull is undertaking some kind of crazy-distance ride in order to raise money for epilepsy. Apparently her four year old nephew has the condition, so it's personal. I'm not usually one to donate money to individuals, preferring to share my hard-earned with organizations that actively work to bring down the systems that oppress us all, but every now and then I'll make an exception. Having reached her initial fundraising goal, she's now increasing the distance of said ride by ten kilometres for every hundred dollars raised. Currently this blog gets about 150 hits a day. Even factoring in that 100 of these are from FJ, if the rest of you kick in ten bucks each, that's an extra fifty kilometres she has to ride. For someone who's not a psycho cycling type like some of us, that's an intimidating addition. Go donate here in order to make a young girl suffer, and also to raise some money for an excellent cause.

And that'll do for today. Enjoy the weekend, dimebags!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Will To Strike Back.

So, the new dates for the Melburn-Roobaix have been announced, and that's pretty rad. It's one of the funnest ways to spend a day in Melbourne, and certainly I understand why people fly into town for it. What better way to explore a city than by biking through it's dodgy underbelly, through lanes meant for nightwatchmen, with a thousand of your new mates? That's an experience that they don't give you on Contiki tours.

The Roobaix, of course, is all about the cobbles, due to the comparison with its namesake, the Paris-Roubaix. If you're reading this, chances are pretty good that you already know what the deal is. The Paris-Roubaix, however, is only one of five of the cycling monuments. The four others are criminally overlooked in Melbourne cycling, and I'm here today to rectify this. I hereby present to you Brendan's Guide To The Melbourne Monuments.

1. Melbourne - San Remo. Based roughly on the Milan-San Remo, which is famous for being a really, really long way, this journey from Federation Square to the San Remo Caravan Park is a straightforward ride from the city to the country, passing through such suburban wonderlands as Emerald and Narre Warren. Complicating matters is the rule stating that this ride may only take place when a certain brand of pasta sauce is on special at Coles, and the additional rule stating that riders must procure, on their journey, all the ingredients to make a traditional Spaghetti Napolitana.

2. The Tour of Flinders. Inspired by the Tour of Flanders, this is a far shorter race than the MSR, but by no means is it any less difficult. Riders are simply asked to don traditional costumes (either this or this) and attempt to board a 5.30pm Hurstbridge train at Flinders Street Station on a Friday night - with their bike. Good luck with that, suckers.

3. Melburn-Roobaix. Hey, I think there's a website for this.

4. Liege. Loosely echoing the Liege-Bastogne-Liege, this ride begins and ends at the Gasometer Hotel, mostly because there's a guy called Liege who works there. At the Gasometer participants will be asked to indulge in one of the establishment's fine mock meat treats - I recommend the "ribs". They will then cycle furiously to a number of the city's other fine mock meat locations, at each point indulgine further in a festival of soy and processed gluten. A parma at the East Brunswick Club... The lemon chicken at Enlightened Cuisine... Pies and Pasties from La Panella... The first to return to the Gaso will take the prize, but upon their return the toilets will be locked, and prizes will only be awarded if their bowels hold out.

5. Finally, the race of the falling leaves. The Gyro di Lombards, which heard of the Giro di Lombardia once, takes place in mid-Autumn. Participants will be asked to decorate their bikes with streamers, noisemakers, crepe paper and all sorts of other shit, in honour of the party supplies store the race was named after. They will then be asked to ride their bikes to a variety of food vans selling Doner Kebabs in such esteemed suburbs as Cambellfield, Broadmeadows and Dallas. Their aim at each of these vans is to purchase and eat a felafel sandwich without getting garlic sauce all over their decorated bicycles. Oh, and also to not get bashed.

And that's it. Start training now! I expect to see design tech features in Cycling News, outlining the imaginary concepts frame designers are implementing to enhance the cushion ability of their frames over Melbourne's tram tracks. I expect to see photos of teams doing reconnaisance at Northcote Plaza. And most of all, I expect to see folks riding their bikes out in the suburbs, dodging abuse, eggs, and occasional doorings.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Driving In My Car.

Shit yeah! I love it when Brendan takes the reins and spins me some rad tunes!

Well tough nuts. You're going to be subjected to some political carpetbombing instead.

Eat shit, quislings.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Sad Songs Are All I Know.

Sure, this weekend was glorious, and you all went on these sweet all-day rides out in the country with your friends, but last weekend the weather was crap. It rained pretty much for the entire two days, was cold, was windy. Definitely get-sick weather.

I'm still not really riding, so it didn't bother me. But I was getting hungry. So I rang up FJ and got him to bring around some Hot Cross Buns. He insisted on two things: that the crosses on the buns were upside down, and therefore in keeping with his totally kvlt lifestyle; and that they be fruit-free, because the dude don't abide by no fruit. I agreed to his terms and put on some coffee.

While he was making his way over Hurley rang up. He was on his way back home from Shep and had some stuff to drop off. I had some stuff of his too, and he was hoping to get it back before leaving for Taiwan. When he heard about the Hot Cross Buns he was convinced.

Eventually those two arrived. We sat around, ate the Buns, drank coffee, talked shit, read magazines and listened to music. Eventually Casey arrived home and volunteered to make dinner. She rustled up a feast and sat us all around the dinner table.

After dinner Casey and I were heading down to the Melbourne Madison. James had some party to go to, and, well, Hurley wanted to go get drunk somewhere. So we all went our separate ways.

But man, those three or four hours, just kicking around the house, that was just like pretty much every afternoon throughout my teenage years. The only difference was that back then the magazines were HeartattaCk or Punk Planet, whereas now I really only get Ride. And perhaps the music is a little more varied now, because back then I was totally HC 4 LYF. Sometimes this new life, of bikes and exercise and going to bed early, seems so different to everything that came before, so it's nice to realize that it's all the same. Only the words change.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

We're Turned Inside Out.

So here we are, on the brink of a second Heavy Metal Monday. Let's proceed!

The other day I was riding (and thinking a bit too) along Heidelberg Rd, when a car suddenly appeared out of a side street. To ensure they weren't going to t-bone me, I made the usual eye contact, found it, and proceeded along my way.

This fairly standard episode got me thinking about the micro relationships cyclists share with drivers, purely through the eye contact we make with them. I hesitate to call them relationships, because they don't tend to last more than three seconds. But you can often know (or feel as if you know) quite a lot about the person, just from those few seconds of one on one.

I guess it's because you are essentially judging whether you can trust them, whether it's safe to ride past them without them hitting the gas and killing you. It's like a real small introduction to them as people, a judgement of which you have to make in a micro second.

Sometime's it's really nice too. Like exchanging smiles with someone who is clearly a cyclist too. That little nod and wave is all it takes. Or that one time I (in an incredibly lame way) gave the metal horns to some metal head in a falcon who was blasting Obituary. The surprised grin he gave as some muppet in a skin tight outfit gave him the horns, probably changed his view of cyclists forever. Sure, they look dumb, but dudes sure have sweet music taste.

Then there are those drivers who clearly resent your very existence, let alone your presence on the road, and eye contact with them becomes a sort of face off, each person daring the other to get in their way. Like an old west gun fight. Except no guns, and less ruggedly handsome faces.

Eventually you feel like you can typecast most drivers: fellow cyclists, friendly old people, angry old people, cute girls, tradies, soccer mums, hipsters, learner drivers (safe!), P drivers (bad). And you make a judgement as to how likely it is that these people are going to kill you. But also what they're interests are, what they like to do on weekends, what kind of music they like, etc, etc. For a few seconds, you're introduced to their world. Or maybe it's just me.

Then there was this one time, a car pulled up at a side street, and there was a border collie at the wheel.

Here's some vintage Obituary.

See ya next Monday folks.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Devil Put Aside For Me.

Like the album cover says, "Caution - Digital Sound Effects!" That sound of your mind exploding? That's because you know it's time for the Friday Round-Up!

Hey, BikeFest is still going on, and tomorrow is their picnic day. It's supposed to be sunny all day, so take your blanket and your wicker basket down to the Abbotsford Convent and chat with other bike-obsessed folks. There's also a Cake Bake competition of some description. Cake Baking competitions are the one competition in which the spectators seem to fare better than the competitors. No one wants to take their cakes home afterwards! Check it out here.

In a bit over a week there's also some bike-related activism going on. Now, I'm usually skeptical about bike-related activism, but leading off your spiel with, " It’s like Earth Hour, only more useful. It’s like a critical mass ride, only effective." certainly does enough to win me over. Sign into Facebook and check out more about BikeHour.

My friend, designer of most of the DDCX flyers, and one of the best people in the known universe, Tara Jayne, is also bringing this sweet band called HIRS out from the states to play some shows. Unsurprisingly, they're playing with some of my favourite bands around, including Useless Children and Shit Weather. Check out some more information here, then get your ass down to the shows.

The Bendigo Madison is also on this weekend. Man, I'm so bummed to be missing out on this. I can't even go watch, because my obviously inconsiderate brother is getting married at the exact same time the Madison starts. Anyways, if you can get up there, it's a hell of a weekend, and the field - once again - is fucking DEEP. That's gonna be some world class racing right there.

And, finally, we're on Facebook too! Make sure you follow us there and on Twitter. Occasionally we update the social media with stuff we think might get us sued if we post it here. Therefore, it's a little funnier. We also sometimes update it when whatever bike race we're watching on TV gets boring, so it's also often a little more current.

That's all for this Friday. Enjoy the holiday weekend, suckas!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Nothing To Lose.

Despite not really wanting to talk about pro cycling - mostly out of fear of revealing our ignorance - both FJ and I are pretty psyched about the coming road season. The spring classics get both of us moving, we both stay up and watch the Tour, and we both have our own respective cracks at the Northern Combine road calendar (not to mention Footscray, when our club allows it). So here I thought we'd have a conversation about pro cycling, and I'd write it down for your reading pleasure. Some of the jokes will be inserted after the fact, because we are not that funny in real life.

FJ: Yo!
B: Yo, how's it going?
FJ: Gis a sec, I just gotta put on some pants.
B: Yeah, you should do that.


B: I can't hear you!
FJ: What?
B: What did you say?

The conversation switches to email. Any formatting irregularities are due to me still using a hotmail account from 1997.

B: Ok, so what I thought we'd do is offer the perspective of two blokes who aren't really fans of pro cycling - but are nonetheless excited about pro cycling - on pro cycling.

FJ: I like this idea. How would the format work?

B: Just like this. So, James, even though you and I have doubted the likelihood of GreenEDGE winning anything this season, they just busted out a hell of a TTT at Tirreno-Adriatico. Do we look like idiots now? And if so, how can we revise history so we don't?

Fuckin, I haven't even heard of the race they won. Not only that, but old mate who got fifth's (shit) Di2 battery ran out, so he was spinning like a fuckwit in 39/11 gearing. That pretty much brought shame to the entire country in the form of 150 rpm cadence.

As for making sure we look good in regards to our scepticism about their ability to win stuff, just wait until the Foils they're riding hit the cobbles.

It's the race Cadel won last year on his way to winning the Tour. You know those sweet pictures of him pretending to stab the associated media with a giant trident? Yeah, that trident is what you get for winning Tirreno-Adriatico. Which you will be happy to hear I can now spell without looking up Cycling News.

Tirreno, though, is often used as a warm-up for Milan - San Remo. Have you heard of that one?

FJ: Yeh I've heard of that one. Milan is a dump, and San Remo is also pretty shit. Why you would race from one shithole to another is beyond me.

Anyway, as far as them winning the race that Cadel won before he won the tour, that's pretty sweet. I imagine, given this one year of precedence, I should come to the conclusion that Green Edge is now going to dominate the Tour, win all 6 jerseys, and probably hook up with all the podium girls.

I mean, that is assuming that one, their Foils don't crack (again) and two, that their gear batteries don't run out.

Who do you think will win Milan San Remo? Do you reckon it will be worth staying up and watching it so that when a rider inevitably wins, we can say that their pre-season form was telling?

B: Well, there goes our Italian readership. I reckon it will totally make us look good if we roll up at St Kilda crits on the Sunday after Milan-San Remo and tell everyone we're real tired from staying up late to watch Milan-San Remo. Then everyone will think that our tiredness is the real reason Will Walker beat us.

I think Fabian will win, though, even if he does have a hairdresser's name. People are all like, blah blah this sprinter, blah blah that sprinter, blah blah Cav vs Goss. But Fabian has won it before, and seems to be in pretty damn good form.

What's all this Cav vs Goss bollocks anyway? If I were Cav, I'd be less concerned about Goss and more concerned about Greipel. That boy has been climbing like a 50kg Euskatel rider lately.

FJ: Man, if i knew anything about Greipel, I'm sure I would agree. Given I wouldn't know him from a Will Walker, I'll have to hold back on my opinion.

I reckon Fabian is a good chance, and I base this on no reasoning other than he is a name I recognise, and I saw a photo of him the other day in the aero tuck position, and he totally had a pot belly. As Steve Duggan says: saturated fat, for saturated power. Which is why those anorexic Spanish Euskatel riders never win anything. I mean, if they did win something, I wouldn't know anyway. But everyone knows that successful cycling teams fold within a maximum of three seasons, and old mates in orange have been going strong since roughly 1934. And by going strong I mean winning nothing, but being the catalyst for a near Basque seperatist revolution every July.

Fabian on the other hand, who weighs around 180 kilos, will probably just think about how fucking hungry he is, probably around 30km from the end, then just tear ass to the finish line and eat some steak or something. Which is fucking rank. But then, yeh, all the rest of the peloton will bluster and blubber about integrated batteries and "what the hell Cavendish, where did your second brain cell go when you drove half the peleton into the gutter when you took a piss?"

My pick though is that Eritrean Green Edge rider to take the win. I don't think he's actually racing but, in my mind, that's the perfect way to trick your opponents.

B: You mean Daniel Teklehaimanot? I'm pretty sure he's not riding, FJ.

FJ: That guy! I wish he was though, he seems like a really cool guy. Did you read that interview on Cycling Tips?

B: Yeah, I did. Man, that website is way better than this one.

What do you make of BMC this year, FJ? Hushovd, Gilbert, Ballan... none of them are looking too great at the moment.

FJ: BMC? Geeze, i didn't even know Hushovd and Gilbert were in that team! And I'm not sure who Ballan is! Which I realise isn't exactly unusual for me. But, yeh, it doesn't look as hot as last year hey?

I hope they can help Cadel out though. He strikes me as a man who probably deserves a second win before he hangs up his disgusting black and fluro shoes.

Who's that young Australian bloke riding for them now? Chicken legs but good climber? I dunno if he'll get a tour run yet, but he could probably help Cadel out in the mountains when he inevitably breaks a chain or something goes horrendously wrong, forcing him to chase the Schlecks up like 78 mountain passes with a time deficit. Yeh, that young guy could be good for that.

B: This time I have absolutely no idea who you're talking about. Tim Roe, perhaps?

That little bit of research I just did reminded me that BMC also have Taylor Phinney riding for them. That's rad. I like him a lot, but I often get him confused with the swimmer / stoner Michael Phelps. Do you reckon that BMC sometimes also get on the cones occasionally? That would explain Gilbert's hairstyle, or, you know... Actually, I can't think of any more bizarre decision than Gilbert's hair. Dude looks like a fucking Pokemon.

FJ: Gilbert is the kind of guy who would get ripped and then win a race in a break away. Kinda like Sean the Man only, you know, a bit better.

I dunno if BMC is really a cone kinda team. I don't think it would suit them. I feel as if Green Edge would probably love the cones. BMC seems more like a psychedelic trip kinda team to, you know, rub out the bad stuff.

In regards to hair styles, I've never really understood it. Especially that euro gel style. I mean, they wear a helmet like, 28 hours a day? Wouldn't it just get mussed up straight away? Pretty odd in my opinion.

B: Agreed. I wonder if his helmet sits unnaturally high due to his fucking Pikachu obsession.

Hey, last question, because dinner is ready: Are you going to come watch the Austral next Saturday night?

FJ: Well, i'm pretty sure, but I have my graduation ceremony. But that's in the arvo, so I see no reason not to. But man, you're gonna have to explain what's going on because track racing for me is a lot like Neighbours: if you miss like one episode (or in this case lap) you have no fucking clue what's going on, and there's always some real boring controversy going on. But yeah, I'll come.

Hey thanks for the conversation, I learnt a lot!

Ps. didn't actually learn shit, except that Green Edge probably rip cones.

B: Ok, see ya!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Same Old Story.

Just press play.

Ok, now that you've been belted around the ears by the best damn Jewish White-Boy soul going, welcome to another La Musique Mercredi (Simon and Garfunkel edition).

This next one is probably one of my favourite songs ever, full stop. I know, I know. But it's tough trying to be XHARDCOREX twentyfour / seven. Please don't allow how dorky (and disturbingly affluent) the audience looks deter you from what is a pretty amazing song.

And, better still, here's how it came together. I never realized the undercurrent of bitterness in the lyrics, but in hindsight, that's probably why it resonates so much. Essentially it's a song about missing people, right? And an inarguable part of missing someone is being a little bit pissed off that they're not there, that they've prioritzed something over being with you.

Or maybe that's just me.

Fuck, that was deep. Here's a little bit of fun to make up for it. I never realized how rad this clip was when I was a kid. That's Big Daddy Kane and Biz Markie at the start! With Paul Simon, the original gangsta!

Here's the same song, but performed on Sesame St! Man, that kid is as cute as all hell.

I wish Sesame St still had such freaking cool musicians on it.

Oh wait, they do.

Although Feist kinda sucks, other the song above, and this duet with The Constantines.

The Constantines, as you know, are perhaps my favourite existing band. Perhaps. Anyways, one time they were playing in Montreal at some invite-only Vice Magazine party. I was about to leave for Melbourne in a few months, and knew that this would be the last chance I would have to see them in ages. So I went up there to try my luck.

"Sorry guy, it's invite only."
"Ah, carn mate, I came all the way from bloody Australia for this show! Strewth!"
"I'm only one bloke, mate! Fair dinkum!"

He let me in.

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Orders Came To Cut Them Down.

Alright, today I'm going to do something a little unusual. I'm going to weigh in on the Yumi Stynes affair. Not because I give a flying fuck about The Circle, the guy who she was talking about, or Yumi herself. But because I do give a fuck about our ability as a society to criticize each other.

A long time ago, when this blog was still about music, I said some nasty things about a terrible band I'd seen. It caused a little bit of localized outrage, with a number of folks jumping to the band's defence. The overarching theme of this defence, however, seemed to be that the band was made up of good dudes. This was a very confusing point to bring up, as I hadn't mentioned the quality of the dudes at all. Just the fact that they were making terrible music. Somehow, folks had assumed that because I thought the band were terrible, the people were terrible too. The idea that I had only criticized the music - and that a person could be both a good person and a terrible musician - was anathema.

As someone who is a staunch adherent to Marx's idea of the dialectic - where opposing ideas clash, debate, then figure out which one is best - I find this an appalling proposition (which, incidentally, is how I find most of Marx's other theories, especially when he starts talking about the dictatorship of the proletariat, in which most serious Marxists seem to include themselves). Criticism of ideas is how we move forward as a society. But if criticism of an idea is equal to criticism of a person, well, we're a society in trouble. We might be moving forward, but ain't none of us going to get along.

What folks don't seem to be able to comprehend is that there is an important difference between the two. I guess this is in part due to the internet, because it always is. On the internet we only know each other through the opinions that we present, so what should only ever represent the part ends up representing the whole. So if I present ideas that folks disagree with, I'm a bona fide dickhead, rather than just a guy with an idea you disagree with. It's much easier to define me that way, you know?

Yumi Stynes obviously hadn't received the memo that the internet (and the media in general) had defined Ben Roberts-Smith as a hero, and that it was impossible that he could be anything else. And that's how the responses have come: That Roberts-Smith has done so much for this country, and Stynes hasn't done anything; That Roberts-Smith is saving lives and Stynes is a brainless moron. Sure, she didn't have any evidence. Sure, she was just trying to be funny. But the thing is, Stynes never suggested that Roberts-Smith wasn't a hero. She never suggested that he hadn't saved lives, or that he shouldn't be commended for doing so. Nor did she ever dare suggest that the guy didn't have a banging body. All she suggested was that he wasn't that bright. In this discussion, everything else is irrelevant.

The outrage regarding Stynes suggests two disturbing things. The first is that if heroic people can't be dumb, then dumb people can't be heroic, which must be devastating for them. The second is that once you do something heroic, you are forever beyond reproach. Which must be fucking fantastic for them.

It is, of course, possible for heroic people to be stupid, because people can be more than one thing, despite what internet messageboards and newspaper comments sections may project. I don't know how smart Ben Roberts-Smith is, but if some TV personality suggests he might be stupid, then perhaps we should be engaging her on the idea, rather than talking about things that have no relevance to the debate whatsoever.

This has bearing on the blog, of course. I spend a lot of time criticizing people for being sexist, racist and homophobic, as well as suggesting that folks are lazy, ignorant and naive. But I also believe this about pretty much everyone in the whole entire world: That people are good, and that they are prepared to work on their shit. If I suggest something you're doing is racist, it's easy for you to call me a fucking idiot blogger and brush it off, then refuse to have anything to do with me thereafter. But if you have a think about it, discuss it with me - email address above - and then try to figure something out, well, then we'll all be better off. Or even if you just think about it, figure out why you're happy with your own shit, then brush it off, then we'll all be better off.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

You Suffer! But Why?!

Welcome to the very first (and possibly last depending on how Brendan finds this one) Heavy Metal Monday. Every Monday I plan to discuss something vaguely related to metal or cycling or both. Occasionally I might talk about something else entirely because, you know, sometimes metal and cycling are boring things to talk about. But, to start of, I want to talk about the idea of suffering, and how I think it's overwhelmed the cycling world.

I spoke about the culture of witch hunt around doping in cycling on my own blog the other week as something that has come about as cycling has become much more popular in the past few years. Another thing that has begun to be talked about in hushed tones ad naseum is suffering or, in most cases, the idea of suffering.

Everyone agrees that cycling can be fucking hard. Real hard. Being out in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of a hunger flat; or strung out in the gutter as you try to hold the wheel of someone considerably fatter than yourself, is not something which many people would call easy. Not only that, but certain cycling brands really like to flog the idea that a kind of physical or mental purity comes out through the shared suffering of a hard ride with friends.

So more and more, when I ask people how their ride was, I'm hearing descriptions like 'brutal' 'hardcore' and 'sufferfest' when, you know, I kind of just expected 'dry', 'windy' or, heaven forbid, 'fun'. I mean, I've suffered on a bike. Like this one time I rode 200km out to Yea and back, almost all on gravel, having eaten nothing but cheese toasties (you know that single slice plastic stuff that is individually wrapped) the day before. That was a hard ride. I'm pretty sure I saw things that weren't there. I suffered, sure, but I still had fun.

As Pete the gym trainer said to Brendan one time when he complained about something being hard, we all do this for recreation. The odd bit of pain on a bike is good for us. It pushes our limits, we show ourselves that we are capable of much more than we think, and we eventually accomplish something kinda cool. But are we really suffering? Has it become unpleasant?

Bike racing has a working class history. The early Tour riders rode the tour because it was preferable to having to work in the coal mines. They didn't race because of the suffering. They raced because it was easy. Racing a bike, no matter how hard its raining, or how fast the bunch is moving, is always going to be preferable to sitting underground, waiting for the canary to snuff it.

So, sometimes when I hear people talking about how super brutal their ride was, I kinda feel like asking them how we can consider having the leisure time to ride our bikes around for, say, eight hours up and down hills, counts as genuine suffering. Sure, it was probably really hard, but in the same way it's really hard to finish a huge slice of chocolate cake: overall, pretty awesome.

I mean, we're all guilty of this. We all want to believe that the things we do are harder and require more skill than they actually do. But maybe we should recognise riding for what it is: fucking awesome, pretty much all of the time.

If you want to suffer (and by this i mean proper suffering, not going on the ergo for an hour and sweating a bit while watching cyclists who are better than you do what they do outside in the sunshine) maybe you should start digging a big fucking hole in the backyard.

Don't forget the canary.