Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Megavalanche 2 - Six Degrees of Gastro-Intestinal Distress.

Of the many things I got wrong about going to France in July, my epic misjudgment of the weather and the resulting effect on packing turned out to be a fairly fundamental error.

I like it warm.  28-31ºC – the sort of temperature which on the rare occasions it happens here in the UK provokes screaming headlines about KILLER HEATWAVES and the inevitable onset of the End of Days, and sees off scores of pensioners who have forgotten how to undo their cardies.  And I was labouring under the misguided impression that France in mid-July was warm.  We’ve all watched the Tour, seen the glistening mahogany limbs of the peloton bathed in the golden French sunshine.  I was completely reeled in with tales of the previous year’s event’s 30ºC dusty high every day.  Of the hub of the social scene being the Outdoor Pool in the centre of the resort - the small town at the top of the famed 21 hairpins and our base for the week -  where frolicking (actual frolicking!) was said to have occurred.  And thus, I packed accordingly.  I even ordered factor 50 sun cream off the internet, so worried was I about my woady blue pasty british shoulders.  Joke’s on me, lads.

The cyclist and I had a single jumper each with us that we had required for the journey - this being July in England.  I’ve never been a particular fan of the sock and hadn’t bothered to pack any for myself, the only footwear I had with me anyway were my converse and a cheap pair of flipflops.  I had one pair of jeans, and three pairs of shorts.  A wistful bikini never even made it out of the suitcase.  As a last minute thought I’d thrown my North Face down jacket on to the back seat of the car as we left, and this was to be my constant and faithful companion in a cold and hostile land.

France was in the grip of some of the very worst weather on record for July evah, with temperatures across the entire country some 10ºC lower than the average.  The terrible weather started the day we arrived, and lifted the day we left, because it wouldn't be funny otherwise.  News reports for the duration of our stay were full of angry residents cursing the weather gods.  The Tour was a complete wash out, heavy rainfall contributing to crashes and last minute course changes.  When we got to our apartment, it was 4pm and 6ºC outside.  

Six.  Degrees. 


The cyclist was starting to feel a bit unwell.  He had been driving now for about 20 hours all told (he had to do all the driving because reasons), and risky service station food had been consumed, so this wasn't altogether an unreasonable turn of events.  It took ages to find the apartment, and then there was a fun 45 minutes where the girl who was meeting us to give us the keys was waiting around the corner from where we were because 'In front of the swimming pool' actually means 'In front of the ice rink'.  All the time, the cyclist is getting paler.

The apartment was beautiful (yay TripAdvisor!), but on the 6th floor with a tiny lift and absolutely no way of getting the bike in other than the stairs (Boooo!).  We unload, and the cyclist decides this is the point at which he has had enough, and lying down will be happening from this point.

We head to bed as his tummy rumbles kick in.

I am woken at about 2am by the cyclist engaged in a noisy bout of the epic shits, rounded off with a vomit to be sure the poison's out.  All goes quiet.  'Are you okay?' I whisper-yell to the bathroom door.  'Fucking Olive Oil ice-cream. Fuck's sake', and he's off again.  I roll over and go back to sleep, supportively.

Megavalanche 1 - Lost in Translation.

It was pretty much all Anna Glowinski's fault.

A segment she did on the Megavalanche (roughly 30km of downhill enduro, starting on the Pic Blanc glacier at the top of Alpe d'Huez and finishing in the valley 2,500m further down the mountain, and touted as the longest downhill race in the world) for the first series of Ch4's The Cycle Show fired the cyclist's imagination.

He thought in silence for a minute or two.  "That looks fucking brilliant" was finally his considered response (side note - it did not look fucking brilliant, it looked completely fucking insane).

And thus we found ourselves, a little over a year later, hunched over the cyclist’s laptop, counting down to the precise second the entries open for the 2014 event, painfully aware that every year it books out almost immediately.  The first gruelling task was to negotiate the online application while desperately fumbling with Google Translate and long-forgotton A-Level French.  For some reason I could remember the word for ‘Bishop’*, but sadly it wasn't required on this occasion.  Less than ten minutes later he has his place.

Travel arrangements, an apartment, babysitters (I am riding shotgun as support crew, but the kids won't have broken up for the school holidays when we go.  After some fairly tense UN-style negotiations we bring in the big guns and my father in law is drafted as chief peacekeeper, a role which will require drawing on every reserve of strength, tact and diplomacy, as well as making packed lunches and sitting through no less than 2 full junior school productions of Joseph and his Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat.  The man is a hero.) and massive amounts of life insurance are all arranged over the next few months.  Due to the enormous bike and piles of ancillary kit, spares, clothes, and protection, we elect to throw it all in the car and drive.


And as we drive through France, I am struck by just how much France there is.  France is huge.  Every time you think you must have got to the end and hit Italy or Africa or whatever, there’s yet more France to drive through.

To break up the monotony of the Autoroutes, we had booked an overnighter at a small family-run establishment in the absolute middle of french nowhere which we shall call, for reasons which will become clear, L'Hôtel É-coli.  Clearly a well known stop off point for Brits making their way through the vastness of France to their chalets in the south, it was busy and seemingly exclusively patronised by retired geography teachers.  The place has been recommended by friends of friends on the strength of the restaurant.  We make a reservation for 7pm, and head to our room to wash off 12 hours of road.

The restaurant is pretty epic.  Starters; - something cheese, something beef.  A post-course palate cleanser of olive oil ice cream, which tastes exactly as it sounds.  The sommelier looks aghast as we order the wrong wine (red) and brings us a bottle she thinks better compliments the meal (white).  We drink it anyway.  Mains; - something langoustine, something more beef. I think a gin and tonic might have got stuck in there at some point too, but I cannot be sure; the reason being I was very tired and french wine does not mess about.  We stagger to bed with as much dignity as two knackered and pissed brits can muster.

The next morning, crucially before the forthcoming digestive onslaught, as we check out I book a room for the return journey.  As the receptionist asks what time we expect to be arriving I confidently ask for a seventeen-year-old, s'il vous plâit.  She arches a gallic eyebrow and writes it down.  I realise my mistake and desperately try to correct myself, stammeringly trying not to look like I belong on the sex offenders register.  It makes it worse.


*L'Évêque.  It's feminine, translation fans.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Paint it Black. Or Dark Blue.

We're back!  Welcome to the third annual Domestique Bliss review of the pro peloton.  Last year's was hosted by the lovely folks over at Cyclismas (check it here if you're interested), and 2013's was the blog post that started it all (here, if the mood takes you).

Ag2r - La Mondiale

I can confirm that there is not a gun in my pocket.
Photo -

Brown shorts.  I've said it before and I'll say it again (and own it goddamn it), I really don't hate this.  Yes, I know everyone else does, but I'm genuinely not sure why, especially given some of the sartorial abominations present and correct in this year's offerings.  Katusha have been training in red tights for fucks sake.  Plus, brown shorts make a lot of sense given we all know the pitfalls of a bad gel.

Most likely to be seen: Unexpectedly winning things.


I would totally buy a used car from this man.
Photo -

Turquoise, back by dope demand.  Such a trustworthy colour.

Most likely to be seen: Hanging around looking nonchalant outside CAS.


Photo -

BMC, your kit needed a facelift last year.  Nothing too drastic, maybe just a little nip and tuck, perhaps a fresher detail or two, maybe a subtle accessory here and there.  But, alas, you left well alone, and you're starting to look a bit…. drab to be honest.  

Photo -

Hey, wanna know what BMC do do well?  National Champs kits.  Taylor Phinney looks freaking awesome in the Captain America skinsuit.  And as we all know, looking freaking awesome is worth 15 seconds in a 10km tt.

Most likely to be seen: telling pretty girls they got their badass scars in knife fights with pirates.

Cannondale - Garmin

My eyes are pies, and yours are lies.
Pic - Cycling Weekly

Will nobody think of the Pandas?

Oh, how sweet this could have been.  Garmin really hit their kit stride in 2014 with a cheeky little blue white and red number that should have looked absolutely awesome merged with the Cannondale lime, giving the 2015 peloton the technicolour pro jersey it so deserved.  Sadly, somewhere during the design process someone went a shade too dark, setting off a Johnny Nice Painter* Episode that left the kit as black as the endless black of space that leads to the chasm of clams.  A bit of detailing with a green highlighter is all that is left of what could have been a masterpiece.

*Never heard of Johnny Nice Painter?  Get thee to Youtube and binge-watch Fast Show sketches immediately, you philistine.

Most likely to be seen: With daft helmets and glasses.

Etixx - Quickstep

Porn star or oil spill?  You decide.
Photo -

It's a reassuring constant in a complex and uncertain world that the Whatever - Quickstep kit will be fucking awful.  The latest to put their name on the front are Etixx - a sports nutrition company trying to buck the association of the double x with porn stars and oil spills.  Good luck with that.

Most likely to be seen: Just behind Kittel, thumping their handlebars.


Photo -

The wet weather danger kit resurfaces to fight another day, and throws a couple of trompe l'oeil triangles in for good measure.  Am I swerving left?  Am I swerving right?  Psyche!

Most likely to be seen: Pixellated during a rainy TTT.  Ahoy!


Race you to the showers!
Photo -

Top German makers of shampoo sponsor team including top German winner of races and haver of hair.  Not since CVNDSH for HD & SHLDRS has a hair and cycling cross-marketing mash-up been so lip-smacking.

Are you flake free Marcel? Are you?
Photo -

So it's a bit of a shame the kit is so dull.  Black.  Blue bits.  Red bits.  White writing.  It's only during the post race slo-mo when they take off their helmets, shake out their fabulous hair and turn to camera and wink that we'll be able to tell them apart from the Skys, IAMs and Treks.  Because they're bloody well worth it.

Most likely to be worn with: - Dude, is that lipgloss?

Haircare sponsor dudes clearly missed a trick. Just saying.
Photo -

IAM Cycling

Um, this is actually really nice.
Photo -

Welcome to the WorldTour; I think you missed a memo.  I mean, full marks for the dark 'n red, so far so identical to everyone else, but as for the finished article - well we're not really doing tasteful this year.  Sit yourselves in the middle of the bunch and try not to cause any upsets, there's dears.

Most likely to be seen: Sat in the middle of the bunch, not causing any upsets.


L-R Bashful, Sneezy, Grumpy, Happy, Dopey, Sleepy, Doc
Photo -

Well, at least we'll see them.  Not to be outdone by Tinkoff Saxo, Katusha have added a splash of fluoro to their standard red and white look.  Top's ok, shorts not so much, team issue red leggings belong on department store Christmas Grotto pixies only.

Most likely to be seen: Having a serious dig in the Grand Tours.


Pic -

No change (unconfirmed) from last year's predominantly dark blue effort - which to be fair is probably the best looking Lampre kit on record.  It's a sad day when it makes a refreshing change to see snot green and epiglottis pink accents on a kit instead of red and blue.

Most likely to be seen: as underdogs

Lotto Soudal

Yeah, we look good.
Photo -

Lotto Soudal change a sponsor, but retain the honour of having the best kit in the peloton.  The retro styling looks sharp and - Katusha, I am looking at you - teaming the red jersey with black shorts looks great.  They'll win everything between now and March.

Most likely to be seen: Going hard down under.

LottoNL - Jumbo

Does my bum look big in this?
Photo - @LottoJumbo_road

Are you calling me fat though?
Photo -

'Dude, we all agreed.  You got the short straw and it's your turn to sponsor them.'  Woeful.  Just…. woeful.  Terrible colour, appalling typefaces, and printing 'Jumbo' on anyone's thighs, even a pro cyclist's, is just mean.

Most likely to be seen: On a valiant but sadly doomed breakaway.


Cheeky little scamps.
Photo -

No change for Movistar, but sadly their sophisticated dark blue look has been assimilated into the rest of the peloton so they no longer stand out.  Cue much slapstick hilarity in the feed zones. 

Most likely to be seen: 300 metres up the road. Grinning.

Orica - GreenEDGE

Invert it, damn you.
Pic -

Another no change (unconfirmed) on a good looking kit.  Mix it up next year, Orica, Green (EDGE) is the new blue.

Most likely to be seen: In a post-race dance-off with Team Sky.


No change for the team that made all the other teams black with a blue bit and some white writing.  Well, why would you?

I'll just leave this here for a moment.
Photo - Chris Froome via

Skinsuit inspiration.  Perm optional.
Photo -

Most likely to be seen: Missing Wiggo.

Tinkoff - Saxo

Tell us, how much of a bell end do you feel?
Photo -

I genuinely thought last year's Tinkoff Saxo kit was as bad as it could get, and man was I wrong.  Bucking the peloton trend for dark hues and refined palettes, and lording their oligarch-sponsored print budget over the more monochrome teams, Tinkoff opt for horrific amounts of retina scorching fluorescent yellow teamed with a comedy codpiece crotch in smurfette blue.  The stuff of nightmares.

The only thing worse than the standard race kit is Peter Sagan's Slovakian National Champ kit.

There is nothing else to say on the matter, except if for any reason you are not following @dwuori on twitter you are doing the internet wrong.

Which is strange, as Tinkoff Saxo issued themselves an extra kit for training, and it's…. cool.  Listen, I was a teenager in the 90's and I'll heart camo print til the day I die, but I really think this works.  Different, nice work with the fluoro, even the corporate logos don't look quite so ashamed.  Switch them out Oleg, I implore you.   

Another gem from @dwuori.
"Tinkov warns that continuing sanctions could result in sale of imaginary horse"

Most likely to be seen: Either from a hundred miles away, or not at all til it's too late.

Trek Factory Racing

The most interesting thing Trek have done in about a hundred years is install Elder Statesman Jens Voigt as 'Ambassador of Awesome'.

Get off my lawn.
Photo - wikipedia

Sadly, Awesome must have been working from home the day the new team kit was signed off.  2014's yawn pinstripes are back, the shoulders are a little whiter, and they checked down the back of the sofa and scraped together the money for a couple of splashes of (hey! Guess what!) red and blue per jersey.

Last one back to the team hotel has to listen to his stories about the war.
Photo - 

Most likely to be seen:  All about Cancellara in the Classics.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Thou Shalt Always Kill.

With apologies to Scroobius Pip.

...Thou shalt not put cyclists on ridiculous pedestals no matter how great they are or were.
Gino Bartali: Was just a cyclist.
Fausto Coppi: Just a cyclist.
Jacques Anquetil: Just a cyclist.
Tom Simpson: Just a cyclist.
Eddy Merckx: Just a cyclist.
Bernard Hinault: Just a cyclist.
Laurent Fignon: Just a cyclist.
Cippolini: Just a cyclist.
Big Mig: Just a cyclist.
Marco Pantani: Just a cyclist.
Jan Ullrich: Just a cyclist.
Lance Armstrong: Just a cyclist.
Alberto Contador: Just a cyclist.
Chris Froome: Just a cyclist.
The next big thing: Just a cyclist.


Friday, 28 June 2013

Star Tours.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

Star Tours 

Episode C

It is time of great change. Unrest in the Senate has spread, old enemies have fallen, and a renewed hope for peace and justice has swept the remnants of the Galactic Empire.

The REBEL ALLIANCE grows stronger, determined to bring an end to the deadlock by overthrowing the crumbling old order and restoring balance to the galaxy once and for all.

Meanwhile, shadowy figures gather, not yet prepared to relinquish their desperate grip on power, and willing to use the seductive pull of the dark side of the force to destroy the rebels who stand in their way…. 


The lovely folks at Cyclismas have taken a deep breath and agreed to take a punt on my silliness for the duration of the Tour de France.  If you want to see what's going to happen, you'll just have to keep your eyes on  In the meantime, have a look at Above animated at 06.40, but don't skip, you'll miss too much.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Training Diary 1.

It didn't get easier, and I didn't go faster.

There's a girl I used to work with and deeply loathed - to protect the innocent we shall call her Mucy. First Monday at work and I try to strike up a conversation.

Did you do anything nice at the weekend?
Just a bit of training.
Ooh, what are you training for?
Nothing…. I’m just, you know *looks me up and down*, training. *flicks hair, flounces off*
So you went to the gym then?

I'm a bit confused by her use of 'training' in this context - to describe activity done without purpose.  To my mind, training is and always has been a means to an end, not the end itself.  However, here I find myself, end-less, about to become a trainee without a cause, unless you can stretch the term 'cause' to cover 'being a bit less wobbly in the central region and able to go up 3 flights of stairs without hacking up a lung', and I've tried and I can't.

I'm actually feeling quite motivated and suddenly it all seems so easy.  Dig myself out of bed.  Dig my kit out of one of the still-unsorted piles from the move that are dumped in the spare room, roughly divided into 'my shit', 'your shit', 'kids shit', 'miscellaneous shit', and 'do we really need this shit'.  Insert one in to the other.  Find the helmet and glasses, that I'm sure I've seen around here somewhere.  Dig the bike out of the ManCave.  Take a deep breath, and get out and ride said bike a bit.  Bingo bango.  Hell I might even enjoy it, who knows.

I start by examining the bike.  Stacked in the ManCave, my bike has been woefully neglected, and partially cannibalised by the bigger bikes.  When I get to her she's basically up on bricks - the cyclist having 'borrowed' her inner tubes for spares.  Supportive of my mission, the cyclist untangles the hosepipe which has snaked itself around her, replaces all items removed, and cleans and mechanics the shit out of her for me.  She sparkles.  'Come on then chubby, let's get you some thighs to die for', she whispers.

I've decided to do this stealth-style, weekend morning, crack of dawn, while the rest of the world sleeps.  My public excuse is the avoidance of traffic, my deep dark personal one is the avoidance of being seen.  However, somehow word must have got out, as 6AM on a weekend in a sleepy backwater middle-of-nowhere and you can't bloody move for cyclists and runners and ramblers and campers and farmers and cheery opportunist thieves, and I may as well have sold tickets to my debut performance as I self consciously shuffle down the lane and onto the road.

I blame the movies.  Training is reduced to a 90-second montage with a pumping and uplifting 80’s power-soundtrack.  By the key-change, our hero has a fetching sweat-V and is taking the steps three at a time, ready to show Dolph Lundgren who's boss.  That is not quite how this played out.

300 yards up the road I have swallowed my first fly.  600, and my legs burn and my saddle (bum) is uncomfortable (killing me).  3 miles in I am hunched over the handlebars, contemplating toppling on to the grass verge at the side of the road to await the sweet embrace of death, sobbing the only two lines of 'Eye of the Tiger’ anyone actually knows over and over and over again, when the local geriatric club run pootles past me.  These guys have an average age of about 400, and aren't even breaking a sweat.  They don’t even bother to get out of earshot before they start to piss themselves laughing at my expense. One of them is shaking so hard he actually has to unclip a foot to maintain his balance.  The utter bastard.

'That’s not very friendly and inclusive' I try to shout after them, but it comes out a bit like a squeak and a cough, and they laugh harder.  One day, I swear to myself, shakily taking a hand off the bars to wipe the snot from my chin with the back of my hand, one day I will ride these old men down and fuck them up.

My resolve is completely galvanised by this experience.  My legs actually start to shift of their own accord.  It might not be nice, it might not be worthy, but my training may have just discovered itself a purpose after all - the vengeful and complete destruction, nay annihilation, of this band of evil old men.  The iPod in my head shuffles.  Sod the 'Eye of the Tiger', this training montage has itself a new theme tune. 

“I’m gonna knock you OUT [HUUUUUH].
Mama said KNOCK you OUT [HUUUUUH]….”

To be continued…..