La Vuelta Espana 2014: Froome’s elbows, the pipsqueak and the pantomime villain

Pro-cycling as a spectator sport lends itself to contemplation. 

During an average stage of a race like the Vuelta Espana, for example, it’s not uncommon for a lull in proceedings to settle in, as the riders kick back for a couple of hours steady riding before whatever beast of a climb the race organisers have found rears up towards the end of the stage

During such a lull, the mind can begin to wander.

And so it was that recently I found myself trapped in a conversation of ever diminishing returns about Chris Froome’s elbows. I say conversation, it was more a selection of statements from my wife, setting out in no uncertain terms just how she feels about Chris Froome’s form on the bike:

“What’s going on with Froome’s elbows? That’s just weird.”

“Why are his arms like that? They look like spaghetti.”

“Do they all have arms like that? Is it because they spend all day riding bikes?”

“Do your arms look like that when you’ve got your kit on? Go and put it on, I need to check, I would hate to think you look like that.”

Froome in yellow (Image: petitbrun - Flickr CC)

Froome in yellow
(Image: petitbrun – Flickr CC)

Just to be clear my wife likes cycling, and knows her stuff too, but Froome’s stick thin arms and protruding elbows have got her spooked. I think the thought that I might one day look like that had her nervously checking the validity of our marriage certificate. Thankfully, I managed to re-assure her that there is only one single thing that I have in common with Chris Froome: we can both ride a bike. 

Furthermore, it’s safe to say that my calorific intake will always guard against skinny climbers arms and weird sticky-out elbows.

We don’t just pick on Froome though. At least once on every stage, we lapse into an inane conversation about Alberto Contador and his classic climber’s physique:

Alberto Contador (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Alberto Contador
(Image: Wikimedia Commons)

“There he is”, I’ll say, “dancing on the pedals.”


“Yep, Bertie”

“He’s tiny, how much do you think he weighs?”

“Not much…60 kilo’s?”

“He a pipsqueak”, my wife will state derisively. 

And with that, it’s always end of conversation; once he’s been identified as a pipsqueak we both know there’s not much more to say.

On the subject of diminutive Spanish cyclists, we are also prone to venture an opinion on Alejandro Valverde and his role as swarthy Spanish pantomime villain.

“Which one is Valverde”, the wife will ask, “is he the one sitting on that other guy’s wheel and doing none of the work?”

“What do you think?”, I reply, eyebrows raised.

“It shouldn’t be allowed, he should have to take his turn. Why should they do all the work while he just sits there saving his energy!”

As I said, she knows her stuff does my wife.




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Biking Behaviour (part 20) – The Super-Commuter

Cycling to work has, at least here in the UK, achieved new heights of respectability. 

There are the health benefits, the money saving aspect, the chance to avoid sitting angrily in traffic with steam coming out of your ears, and the fact that many work places run a cycle to work scheme, which allows you to buy a brand spanking new bike whilst paying no tax on it whatsoever; if the number of people who claimed the cycle-to-work tax benefits actually cycled to work, trust me, our roads would now be clogged up with bikes, not cars. 

But that’s another subject entirely. Continue reading

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Strava: top 10, or top 10 percent?

So it seems most of us are on Strava these days.

All good fun, of course, as long as you don’t get sucked too far in and become a Strava casualty!

Back in the halcyon days of 2011, or ‘the early years’ as I like to call them, in the days when many of us were yet to switch our cycling from analogue to digital, I used to aim for a top 10 slot on many of the local climbs here in Lancashire. Not only that, I could always count on having a handful of KOM’s to my name (the less well known ones, admittedly, but they were still mine).

I was no hotshot, but in the sparsely populated world of Strava I might just have popped up on the radar of the cycling community.

But no more, alas.

Now that every cyclist and his dog (to coin a slightly clunky phrase) are logging their achievements for the world to see, I find myself lost on the leader-boards – 73rd position out of 846, for example – vaguely respectable perhaps but still very much swallowed up by the mediocrity. Continue reading

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Enforcing ‘The Rules’

I won’t hear a bad word about my local bike shop.

Of course, some of the things they sell can be found much cheaper online, but they give good advice, they clearly love bikes and anything bike related, and they don’t give you the hard sell.

They also give me 10% off, which clinches it.

Having said all this, I have uncovered evidence recently that they seem to have a rogue staff member who is stealthily enforcing ‘The Rules’.

(For the record, I just think ‘The ‘Rules’ are a bit of fun. Nothing more. I know some get a bit hot and bothered about them. Not me. No-one is actually trying to dictate how you should behave. They’re just for fun). Continue reading

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Promoting a Picturesque Peloton

Professional cycling is a tough sport, of that there is no doubt, but it’s also very pretty. 

Think of the Tour de France, with some of the worlds fittest athletes dancing gracefully on the pedals; beautiful mountainous backdrops; fields full of sunflowers; cutting edge bikes; and the colour and movement of the peloton as it glides through some impossibly picturesque French village.

This is the way I like it.

When watching the sport from the comfort of your settee, if the racing itself is in something of a lull it’s the pretty bits that catch your attention, which is why I’m so alarmed about a number of recent blots on the landscape of our viewing pleasure.

French Sunflowers (Image: Wikimedia CC)

French Sunflowers
(Image: Wikimedia CC)


I fear it may be time to take the draconian step of introducing minimum acceptable aesthetic standards to pro-cycling.

Let’s examine the evidence: Continue reading

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