My place in the team

You don’t have to watch too many highlights of cycling’s Tour de France to know that road racing is a specialist, highly technical and physically gruelling sport that has evolved its own universe of tactics, machinery, nutrition, training regimes and, of course, pharmaceutical aids. Specialism also means jargon and in a world of élites such jargon can also be used to confuse the less-than-élite. And, as French is also the lingua franca of road racing, so it can become even more confusing to a non-Francophone, monolingual, cycle-recreationalist like me. Even the English-orientated terminology can be confusing; after all, who would have thought that it is possible to ride a bike at the same time as bonking?

All of this can be problematic when trying to define the cyclist in you. So, leaving aside any consideration of fitness levels or ability and, given my body type, aptitude, technical skills and doping nutrition preference, what rôle would be mine?

Rouleur: A rouleur is a bit of an all-rounder and capable, perhaps, of managing to win the occasional race or race stage. By definition, an all-rounder must manage hills quite well and I don’t and never did, even when I was younger and quite fit.

Puncheur: These riders thrive in races that combine relative short, steep climbs over an undulating route, but lack the extreme uphill endurance of the specialist climbers that excel on truly alpine ascents; however, the very mention of hills, short or not, counts me out as a puncheur.

Climber: Climbers are petite, lightweight riders that seem able to ‘dance’ on their pedals as they climb ridiculously steep hills at a ridiculously fast pace. I am neither petite nor lightweight and I certainly can’t dance!

Sprinter: Sprinters do what it says on the tin. In a mass finish these are the really big-thighed riders that can summon the strength to outpace all others in what can be an extremely reckless pursuit of victory. They are, by way of compensation, hopeless on the big hills, but that doesn’t help me as sprinters can be foolhardy in the extreme and can get badly hurt in the mêlée of a bunch sprint. I have no stomach for that (or perhaps too much stomach these days 😢)

Time trialist: Individual time trials set the rider against the clock; there are no team-mates to pull you along. It is just you trying to keep your power output high as the pain levels go even higher. This is the one where everybody suffers – really suffers – which counts me out.

So, that all draws a blank, but even though it looks as if I would be a nondescript member of a racing team (in more senses than one) not all is lost. Although I don’t race or ride the vast distances of the audax, sportive or cycle-touring communities, road cycling is my pursuit of choice. My drug of choice is caffeine and, nutritionally, I am all for a nice bit of cake. As an internationalist I am happy to acknowledge French or faux-French as the patois of the road, and this makes me deeply indebted to the Pâtisserie Cyclisme website and to one essayist in particular that has helped me to find my true cycling identity:

“The trundleur is a cyclist who enjoys riding any kind of bicycle, at their own pace for the sheer enjoyment of it. They frequent cafés, stopping to enjoy the view, converse with friends or simply sit and reflect. The trundleur does not care for recording their rides obsessively, nor do they obsess about their speed or beating their fellow cyclists.

The trundleur finds a simple joy in the act of riding a bicycle.”

Mesdames et messieurs, je suis un TRUNDLEUR!

Postscript: Sadly, the Pâtisserie Cyclisme website appears to have been taken down.

Soft soaping a cyclist. Not!

Sometimes one’s loving family may not be quite so loving as one thinks. Take for example the gift of a simple bar of soap. This one, a Christmas present, panders well to the cyclist, but the subtle ‘sting in the tail’ that it advertises is revealed to be an embedded exfoliant of ground walnuts; extremely coarse ground nuts (and that’s before a long day in the saddle)  🙁

Ground nuts, anyone
Ground nuts, anyone?

Another one bites the dust

I wonder if there is a collective noun for a spate of deaths of the performers that comprised the theatrical and musical milieu of a chap’s childhood and teenage years. Of course it’s no surprise that a clutch of the memorable stars of one’s youth begins to fall off their perch when youth itself progresses to middle-age or beyond, but it does become a bit alarming when so many seem to expire in relatively quick succession. Warren Mitchell, the Alans Howard and Rickman, David Bowie, Val Doonican, Glenn Frey, Cilla Black (although I was not a fan), Andy M Stewart (“Who?” you ask) and now, at a grand old age, Ronnie Corbett. There have been tributes a-plenty to him so I’ll not reference them here other than to add my own small contribution:

The stage lights have finally gone dim
On a life that was full to the brim
Of mirth a propos
The Two Ronnies Show,
So now, it is “Goodnight from him”.

Ronnie C in one of his best-known guises, the meandering and tangential story-teller
Ronnie C in one of his best-known guises, the meandering and tangential story-teller

Me and Aphrodite #2

Well, the sun finally came out for the last couple of days of our trip to Aphrodite’s Isle so, having visited the Baths of Aphrodite on a previous visit, this time we headed to the Sanctuary of Aphrodite at Kouklia and the nearby ‘birthplace’ of Aphrodite at Petra tou Romiou (Rock of the Greeks, aka Aphrodite’s Rock).

From all accounts the cult of Aphrodite was a fairly salacious forerunner of the 1960s summer of love (not that I personally witnessed the former and was too young to be a participant in the latter!) and Aphrodite was not actually born at her ‘rock’, but merely made landfall there, apparently carried ashore on a turtle shell.

The beach at her birthplace is shingle and very painful to walk upon barefooted. Still, I paddled there in the Med and made landfall myself, sadly not as Adonis, but as a late-middle-age Brit with his jeans rolled up to his knees.

This is the coastline with the furthermost sea stacks identifying the ‘birthplace’:

Petra tou Romiou
Distant view of Aphrodite’s Rock

… and this is where she made landfall:

Aphrodite's landfall and my paddling pool
Aphrodite’s landfall and my paddling pool

The cult of Aphrodite on Cyprus really took off around the 12th century BC so it was no surprise on our earlier visit to discover that the Baths of Aphrodite is actually a rather attractive freshwater pool fed by a small waterfall and not what we would recognise today as a proper bathtub. More of a surprise, then, on our current visit to discover it could well have been a ‘proper’ bath. The Palaepaphos museum at the Sanctuary of Aphrodite has a terrific carved limestone bathtub on display at the Sanctuary dating from the 12th century BC, inclusive of an inner seat and a sponge holder:

12th century BC carved limestone bath, Palaepaphos
12th century BC carved limestone bath, Palaepaphos showing the raised inner seat. The sponge-holder is out of view.

Anyone old enough to remember the 1979 TV mini-series ‘The Aphrodite Inheritance’, itself set in Cyprus, will probably recall that Alexandra Bastedo played the role of a mythological goddess in human form. I don’t think her character was supposed to represent Aphrodite per se despite the fact that she had developed her own cult-following after playing Sharron Macready in the late 60s TV series ‘The Champions’ . Maybe that is what piqued my interest in Cyprus and the Aphrodite connection, or maybe it was because a young Greek woman called Afrodite once thought me good-looking 😉

Nissan dorma

“It started with a kiss …

No it didn’t. It started with a Fiat Doblo. Although I have easy access to some beautiful countryside, it does become a bit repetitive to cycle out and back on the same roads all the time. If you also consider that the first half-dozen miles out are largely urban (with traffic to match) then it makes sense to load the bike into the car and drive out to one of many potential starting points for a ride. And that is what I do, but there is always a nagging thought that it would be great to drive out a bit further and, perhaps, to kip in the car to make a weekend of it (or more, as I work part-time).

That thought resurfaced the day I saw a campervan conversion of a Fiat Doblo. “Ugly brute” is a fair description and that’s even before the Doblo is converted. It’s even worse afterwards. But it did show that bijou campervans do exist and so, after further research,  it has come to pass that we now have on order a micro-camper from those good people at Hillside Leisure. Based on the Nissan NV200 van it didn’t start with a kiss, so let’s hope it doesn’t end in tears either.


Postscript: Just after I thought I had originated a neat pun for the title of this post I discovered that JC Leisure had got there before me. ‘Nissan Dorma’ is, in fact, the name of their NV200 conversion. The one that we have on order (as pictured above) is the altogether less-well monickered ‘Dalbury’.

Exhibition Time!

The red lights in the darkrooms at Gray’s School of Art have been burning brightly these last few weeks as students on the RGU ‘short course’ black and white film photography classes have been desperately trying to produce some prints worthy of inclusion in the forthcoming short course exhibition. It’s not just a photographic exhibition; the various courses that are run include everything from drawing to kilt-making. All levels of incompetence are catered for, even mine, and they all somehow manage to come together in a quite impressive show.

So, if you are close by Aberdeen from Monday 14 March to Sunday 20 March inclusive, take a look in Gray’s School of Art: Mon-Fri 9am-10pm, Sat 9am-6pm, Sun 9am-3pm. (Parking restrictions apply between 8am and 4pm on weekdays) .

This is an early test print of the dilapidated library at Inverkeithny in Aberdeenshire. I rather liked it and thought it was worth working on a bigger and better version with an eye to inclusion in the exhibition, but even at this stage it didn’t pass muster with the course tutor due to the distracting foreground foliage. Shows how much I know!

Inverkeithny Library
Inverkeithny Library