This Sunday brings the 2013 edition of the cycling spring classic Paris – Roubaix. I can remember being drawn into the Tour De France on World of Sport in the late seventies, where it quickly became apparent that it was a technical, complex and interesting sport to understand (the sort of challenge I seemed to love as a child. I can remember trying to understand how the scoring in darts worked before I learnt subtraction at school, and spent an afternoon mystified at how they scored points, but their score went down not up!). After a year or two of getting to grips with some of the initial mysteries and wonder of Le Tour, the next thing introduced by World of Sport was Paris Roubaix.
Take the wonders of simple road racing, and then add in several lengthy sections of cobbled farm and forest tracks in rural France. All the pain and hard work of normal cycle racing meets The Hell of The North, these ancient broken paths that sought to destroy bikes and riders proceeding at any sort of pace along them. Dust clouds choking and blinding the riders in good weather, slick cobbles becoming ice-like and dangerous in bad. And then in a final ironic twist, a finish on the ultra-smooth wood panels of Roubaix’s velodrome, a return to the track roots of many of the riders, often for a mere victory lap, sometimes for a proper track race. These are the ingredients that make Paris Roubaix a true classic I think I was sold the moment one of the camera bikes crashed during the race, the biker caught out by the cobbles too.
This year’s race can be caught live on Eurosport this Sunday, but to get a real feel for it, enjoy this coverage from 1988 by CBS, a beautiful package that really sells the uniqueness of the race.
38 years old today. Great weekend to celebrate it, wandered round the Steampunk exhibition in town, then a nice walk around Oxford, followed by a cracking meal at Shanghai 30s. Scalextric was my main pressie, a fitting addition to a growing collection for a man of my advanced age.
Not really pondered too much the passing of time, tend to do that at New Year. This was more just mellow progression, like a smooth chord change, rather than the bells and whistles the change of year brings. If I’m looking for one thing though, did get thinking about getting out on the bike again, both for traveling to work, and for some trips further afield to take photos out in the countryside. Sounds like a plan.
Summer has come. Wimbledon has finished, and thus we are allowed decent weather the second the final ball is struck. So we’ve been active, we had a little cycle ride down to The Prince of Wales, which amongst other things proved how thin the saddle on my new bike was. It is better today. I’ve done loads of weeding, I’m a few more sessions away from getting it cleared to my satisfaction, but I may be starting to break the back of it. And I managed to watch plenty of motorsport whilst not in the sun.
Also tested out my new Flip 3 tent. I am kicking myself for not getting the camera out whilst I tested it, I might do it again so I can get a few images of it. It’s large and a bit unwieldy to carry, as it is a big flat circle when packed. The genius though is that you take it out of the cover, pull back the strap, and it explodes into a fully-erected tent! Something of a decent-sized one as well. Even more surprising is that whilst it takes longer to put away, that is mainly down to technique, it is pretty easy to do that too. Only downside is that it is a big flat circle when packed, not the best shape, does come with shoulder straps on the bag, but it wouldn’t be suitable for hiking or suchlike. Fine for a festival though. We shall camp like princes.
Have been making sushi for the first time tonight. Harder than it seems, should be just rice and rolling in my book, but there seemed to be several little stages in the instructions I had, and it was quite the faff. Still, I’ve got my first two long rolls cut, so after a couple of test portions I’ve got lunch for tomorrow, and a starter for dinner tomorrow. They seem to come out bigger than I’m used to, but I don’t have a bamboo mat to roll with, so I don’t think I was prepared to risk getting them tighter without splitting. Will report back soon with how they tasted having been chilled. Also discovered the joys of wasabi peanuts tonight. They are hot. Damn hot.
I’ve also bought some new trainers for cycling, sort of a combination of trainer and hiking boot. Possibly the most comfy shoes I’ve had in a while, will post a photo of them soon, would highly recommend them.
I hurt a bit today. Did a slightly longer cycle ride last night, and my ancient bones know all about it now. Going to have to make sure I get out again tonight, keep up the good work. Last night was following the cycle path on the other side of the Cowley Road all the way up to Hollow Way. Bit of a hill in the way at the end, and I got halfway up before my heart and body said “fuck that”. So I pushed the rest of the way, as I had to see still. Watching the Tour de France later embarrassed my laziness somewhat, although I did find it heartening to see that the present yellow jersey wearer did effectively the same as me.
Tonight I might try and get down to the river. May try and idle around a bit off Jackdaw Lane I found recently. Also should remember for future reference that there was a whole wooded area off the cycle path I was on last night I know nowt about. May well be worth a wander. One of the nice things about getting out on the bike like this is that it does give me more opportunity to learn Oxford better. I quite enjoy a good explore, go down a turn I don’t know, see where it takes me. I’ve a great believer in being able to assume that north is north, spotting something that lets me know where that is, then following my nose until I find somewhere I recognise.
I think my body is telling me to do a few stretches afterwards though. Yes. That does make sense. Ouch.