Wednesday, 26 August 2009


 


 

I read this article today and was genuinely disgusted, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/personal-view/6088655/Hamas-is-leading-Palestine-down-the-road-of-carnage.html to pretend to be a NEWSpaper whilst publishing such one sided and biased propaganda is, in my opinion, disgusting. I just dashed of a rapid reply so that it is in time for tomorrow's edition, it's not great but at least it sets some of the issues straight.

It won't get published, they don't like being wrong.


 

Dear Sir,

I am disgusted by the one sided and blinkered portrayal of Hamas in mr Prosor's article today. What was published left me incredulous at the omission of some basic facts; The entire piece tactfully neglects to mention that Hamas were elected by the Palestinian people, his refererence to a "a bloody coup against the Palestinian Authority in June 2007" has been acknowledged by international observers as a free and fair election  Edward McMillan-Scott, the British Conservative head of the European Parliament's monitoring team described the polls as "extremely professional, in line with international standards, free, transparent and without violence".  Hamas won elections, not because of religious extremism or anti zionism but rather because of the massive perceived corruption of the Palestinian authority and the Fatah party. The elections, far from being fixed were acknowledged as fair,  however the response to these elections from Israel has been far from fair. As Robert Fisk  sarcastically commented "God damn that democracy. What are we to do with people who don't vote the way they should?".

 
 

Why then do we continue to peddle the myth that Hamas are merely fanatical terrorists? If, as Jack Straw said  it is true that that "[Hamas has to understand that] with democracy goes renunciation of violence." Why then have we acquiesced in the election of Ariel Sharon, a war criminal by the admission of his own government's report? The Palestinian Authority  under Fatah did what Israel now demands of Hamas as a "pre-condition" for negotiation. Yet for a dozen years of an Oslo "peace process" Israel didn't slow down construction of new settlements, didn't forego destroying olive trees, didn't halt preventing pregnant women from reaching hospitals, didn't stop assembling 8 meter concrete slabs in the gigantic apartheid wall which divides people from their jobs, friends and families and didn't enter into serious negotiations. Mr Prosor cites Hamas' "disregard for the sanctity of a house of worship" when in January of this year his own government was responsible for the destruction of the Jabalya mosque. Given Israel's refusal to commit to peace and reconciliation in Palestine it is perhaps unsuprising that the People living under occupation have chosen to elect a party who have promised to take a harder line towards Israel.

 
 

Mr Prosor is right that " Extremism breeds extremism" but it is Israel, as much as Hamas which has failed to allow " moderation a chance to flourish" by kiboshing the attempts of Hamas to take power within the confines of a democratic system.

 
 

Whilst we continue to discredit the language of democracy with the techniques of hypocrisy and terrorism we will never succeed in winning the hearts and minds of the people of the Middle East. We are prepared to talk about elections and freedom but in reality that freedom exists only within a narrow set of constraints, the conduct of Israel and the international community towards Hamas since 2007 illustrates that foreign policy in the Middle East remains focused on outcomes rather than legitimate processes and genuine freedoms.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Le tour de dorset

Well I have just got back from a fantastic few days in Dorset racing the WXCRL tour of dorset. Despite not getting much of a result (more on that later) I had a great time. A few things really struck me about how much I love racing in the UK compared to all the other countries I have been fortunate enough to freewheel about on my carbon stallion;

  1. England can be really beautiful in the summer (Wales, not so much. It doesn't have a summer they have the rainy season and the bloody rainy season)
  2. I love the windy roads, with high hedges, you don't get those anywhere else (see the photos at grahamrobins.net)
  3. The village hall after the race, you can't beat a good bit of cake, a plastic cup of tea and some banter
  4. A race which actually has hills, and breakaways
  5. The bunch banter
  6. The amusing confusion about how many laps we actually have to go
  7. The fact that everyone isn't taking anything too seriously

This weekend was a bit of an adventure, I agreed to give a friend a lift down, saldy he didn't finish work until 9pm on Friday, so I picked him up from tesco and we headed down to glorious Axeminster to stay with the family Cox. Good friends of both myself and Tom, the Cox's had agreed to tolerate our sweaty and constantly hungry presence in their home for 3 days. Nathan had been planning to race but his coach laid down the kibosh as he had a big stage race in less than a week. We arrived at around 11.30, had a chat and inflated our airbeds. With myself, Tom and Nathan in one room a good long chat ensued resulting in Tom and I clocking about 5 hours sleep before the race.

We got up early and headed over to Wool in order to check out the tt course before the start, what I didn't do was check out if tom's tt bike fitted me, he was 10th off I was last man. He got back from his ride and I hopped into his shoes and onto his bike and straight to the start. I set off like a bat out of hell only to discover that as soon as I sat down (and I use the term sat in the loosest possible sense of the word, impaled might be a better phrase) I couldn't help but notice my elbows and knees were getting a little too close. This hampered my efforts on the flat tt bit, only when it got hilly (and by hilly I mean 42-25 grinding) did I manage to pass the minute man. I would later find out that he had properly bombed the tt and I was still fairly distant on GC. Tom did well, despite moaning about it being rubbish he got the yellow jersey. After a quick pint of fudge flavoured milkshake and a healthy portion of pasta we saddled up for stage 2.

Billed as 60 miles the race ended up being nearer 80 including neutral zone due to some lap board shenanigans which was to become a common feature of the race (basically we did 1 lap then we got the amount of laps we thought we were doing). With tom in yellow I tried to help as much as poss. A break slipped away and the bunch behaved like typical 3rd cat wheelsuckers. Much agitation saw a bit of through and off getting going and the gap reduced from 1.30 mins to 15 secs, at this point I was pretty buggered so I decided to sit on. Needless to say the gap opened again. A couple of lads got across; despite numerous forays up the road I did not. A couple of amusing incidents occurred during the race, perhaps most notable was coming around a 180 hairpin to be confronted with the sight of "dangerous" dave, lying in the middle of the road, upside down. Someone screamed "don't move" and dave lay there, with his bum in the saddle and his hands on the bars, riding his bike upside down as the whole bunch sailed by, and I mocked his bar tape selection. With 5k to go I was off the front with a few other lads, we got caught. With a kilo to go I kicked it off again and was surprised to find myself still there with 500 to go, and with 300 to go and with 250 to go, this patter continued until about 20 guys came flying past me within spitting distance of the line. I was pretty angry, and pretty tired after riding on the front and having a few digs in the last few kilometers. A nice cruise back to the HQ gave me time to calm down and by the time I had recovered car keys from the neutral service car I was ready to drink another milkshake and head back to Nathan's where his mum furnished us with a bucketload of pasta and we proceeded to stay up late playing pool on the computer- nice race prep.

Sunday saw the queen stage of the race, long hilly and windy, guaranteed to split it up they said. Well the day before was a guaranteed sprint and a break had got away so I wasn't sure. Predictably the bunch staid together with the monster headwind neutralizing the hill (which was another 39-25 knee popper). On the back lanes with 3 to go we weaved in between hedges and tractors on roads only wide enough for 3 riders. Somehow I managed to chip off the front with another rider and, to my astonishment we opened up a pretty good gap. Perhaps whomever had taken it upon themselves to shout "hup" every single time someone so much as twitched an eyebrow had taken his eye off the ball, wither that or he was too busy shouting "car down", which seems to be the rallying cry of the 3rd cat fat controller. Anyway, somehow they let two skinny guys escape off the front and we proceeded to work well together. Richard was an ex- elite rider coming back from having kids and he schooled me in the art of riding from gutter to gutter to get out of sight and avoid the wind. Soon a bloke called Stephen came across to join us and we proceeded to engage in some proper stem chewing, rivet riding breakaway action. The second time up the monster headwind hill we had about 30 secs, we got caught after that. By this point I was pretty, much breathing out of every orifice I had. Going up the hill had been a world of pain, and for the 25 or so miles that we had been away I had been to excited or in pain to eat or drink, thankfully Nathan had come to watch and he handed me up a much needed bottle. Having safely returned to the shelter of the bunch and amongst the familiar calls of "car up" "ride straight" and "hup hup hup" I received pats and congrats form many of my buddies. Along the way I had officially picked up more sprint bonus points than boonen did in the tour de France, now that is a claim to fame. On the finish (at the top of the hill, I pretty much saw the lights go out and engaged reverse. I just slinked in at the back of the bunch but only after throwing my bike for the line and then noticing the line was about ten yards ahead, smooth move.

That night tom and I constructed an amateur ice bath with a sack of ice from a sack of ice and Nathan's bath, I'm not sure if it worked but it was bloody cold and we both felt well hard. Having eaten more pasta and some pork rolls Nathan kindly yielded his bed to me and Tom slept on a mattress. Before going to bed we decided it would be quite diverting to send twitter messages to lance "pharmstrong" Armstrong, to be honest I was not impressed by the fact that he demanded such a fee to race in Ireland (allegedly) and then packed (definitely). Judging by the response on twitter, some people think that's cool. I don't, he rode like a chipper, I wonder if he shouted "hup" so he wouldn't actually ever need to do any chasing. We reflected on the nature of the tour of dorset, or as it was fast becoming know, the wheelsucker worlds – in reality about 10-15 guys were racing and 65 guys were hanging on or sucking wheel like a vacuum cleaner and using what little breath they could squeeze out to shout "hup" in order to neutralize attacks. Other prominent proclamations include "car" (this can be used at any time a motor vehicle comes into view, even if it has been parked there for the past 70 miles and we've passed in 6 times) "corner" (see above) and "hold your line" (this comes when someone in front has been so engaged in looking out for cars or attacks that they forgot to steer). Curiously you don't hear the word "hole" uttered often in the bunch, we'd rather leave people to disappear down some of the dorset mineshafts which the council have been tactically ignoring since the industrial revolution.

More on stage 3, the grand finale coming soon.

 

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Pythons, pissing and pre – race meals

I have just got back from the python rr, I finished squarely in the bunch being the dedicated wheelsucker that I am. I'm okay with that though, im still getting some form back after the appendix came out so for me the goal was to finish a 90 mile race and try to do so without feeling like anything was trying to escape out of my bowel. In that case mission accomplished. The race itself was pretty boring; long, hot and flat, a break went, I tried to get across and pretty much found the limits of my fitness. I returned to the comfort of the bunch where I could roll around in fine company, eating my jelly babies and trying to avoid potholes. Amusing incidents of note include:

one rider needing to piss 3 times in a 90 mile race (I reckon he might want to get his prostate looked at) but then again I suppose it's a pretty good way to deal with someone who won't pull their turn on the front.

The bunch getting strung out behind a horsebox

Me nearly getting killed by an ambulance around a blind corner

Multiple uses of the famed reverse tap; you reach around a rider, tapping him on the opposite side to the side you are actually on, then you laugh at him when he looks the wrong way. It's comic genius, honestly.

Seeing as this would be a rather short entry without some other content I thought I would reflect on a couple of things. People often ask me what I think about during a race, honestly you don't really want to know. It's pretty boring. My internal monologue went something like this; normally you get a rubbish song in your head and it won't go away. Today's mental jukebox was spinning You've got a friend by James taylor and Ruby by the Kaiser chiefs – nice mash up. Aside form the song random thoughts tend to flow in and out. "it's hot isn't it, I should take some clothes off" "when was the last time I ate something, I wonder how my bloodsugar is" "it's a 90 mile race, what fraction of the race have we done, hmm 11/90 oh balls still got a while to go then, I should really think about taking this gilet off now." (unzip gilet, sit up) "oh balls someone's attacking, ouch this really hurts, I think I'm going to get dropped, o h there goes a wheel jump on, hey this guy has matching shoes and tyres, nice, ooooooooouch this really hurts and I have my gilet undone, I look like a cross between superman and a smurf, is that a horse or a cow, no it's a horse, oh good we've slowed down a bit, oh crap that's a pothole, cool I hopped it, I bet everyone is impressed with my bunnyhopping skillz" (sit up roll up gilet) "hmm I need to eat, I wonder if I can combine two flavours of jelly baby to make a cocktail – oh bummer, I can only find green ones, oh look a tractor, I wish I had a tractor (I really do), I wonder what I'll make for dinner tonight, maybe I should attack" (attack) "bad idea this hurts, but I have a gap oh crap it's a big gap, this is such a bad idea, this hurts soo much, pedal smoothly, hit the apex of the corner (brief James taylor interlude here, I also dribbled a bit) oh they've caught me, good now I can relax, oh crap they're spanking it, hang on, find a wheel, sweet got one, oh look this guy has hairy kneepits, schoolboy error, I'll tell him when I can summon enough breath to, oh that guy has race number 69, sweet. That man's mowing his lawn, it's ages since I have done that, I wonder if he has a veggie patch, looks like he does, bloody hell that's a mad combover on that bloke watching, if I move up now I can slip back on the hill.

And so it goes on until the last kilometer which is a little different: "who's wheel do I want, oooh not that one he's a chopper, this one looks good, swerve the pothole, get round this bloke he's dying, have I got any gears left, yeah 2 left, was there another corner, oh crap yes, slow down, find a hole move up, WE"RE ALL GOING TO DIE, phew danger averted, jump up a wheel, oh crap the right hand side is moving way faster, I'll move across, sorry, just crossed someone's wheel AAAAARGH IM CROSSING BARS, oh good I survived, crap yellow flag, change gear, out the saddle give it beans, oh balls my jersey zip just broke, shoddy, I don't think I have got that fat recently, maybe it was all the ice cream last night, oh crap there's the line, this guy's a nutter he's sprinting like Kermit the frog, can't get past those gangly elbows, ooooh my legs hurt, now my lungs hurt, now I cant see. Phew over the line, spin slowly, find a mate, find some water, ride back to the car. Rinse and repeat.

Another thing I wanted to reflect on was pre race meals, I like to eat about 3-4 hours beforehand, I have tried a few things but I generally try to avoid dairy, I like porridge with almond milk and I had rice and raisins today with soy sauce. Some people eat eggs but I think I would revisit them, I like yogurt as well but sometimes it makes me phlegmmy. I will sometimes eat ice cream if it's a group ride, if I have time/energy I make pancakes and waffles. Coffee is a must. Sometime's if I'm in a rush I will confess to eating a trek bar and a smoothie. The night before though, it has to be pasta. ON the continent they make you eat pasta 3 hours before, it's like a bloody religion out there, everyone's doing it and you get shouted at if you don't. I'm not hardcore enough to eat pasta for breakfast yet, maybe one day.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Racing and planning

First off, a race report. I did the castle coombe crit on Thursday night. It's basically a kermesse style race but with a unique twist, or really a series of unique twists which make it its own kind of creature;

  1. It's on a flat, windy motor circuit so you find yourself spinning like a nutter in 53-11 on one straight and wheezing like a pensioner in 53-19 on the other
  2. It's a handicap race, the 4th cats get a 1 lap (2 mile) lead, then go the 3rd cats with about half a lap, then after the 4th cats do lap 1 the scratch posse heads out, this workd well as the scratch group gets some through and off working and we catch the assembled 34 bunch quite close to the end. BUT I have recently discovered that some 4th cat racers (and I admit it's not all that long since I was a 4th cat) have the memory span of a goldfish. Each lap is a new and exciting experience, necessitating much screaming and occasional frenetic bouts of heavy application of rubber to rim. Having been in the elite group for about an hour, this is quite a shock when we do merge into one glorious whole.
  3. It always bloody rains
  4. it starts at 730, so it gets dark near the end which makes it more scary
  5. they let someone with some special counting skills do the laps to go board resulting in the 15,14,13 12, 12,12 10, 9,9 7, 3,3, bell lap combination which leads to much frenzied moving up and complaining at the back. I can see the organizer is trying to eek out as much racing as he can for us, so actually I quite respect his funny counting but it does piss you off when you're in the hurt box and the lap cards start to climb
  6. you shouldn't drink loads of coffee beforehand because then you cant sleep

this Sunday I have an E12 road race, it's called the python rr, I hope this doesn't mean it is going to bite me in the arse. I have had pretty good luck with snakes. I picked up a puff adder once thinking it was a grass snake, but it seemed to like me so I survived. Didn't stop everyone I was with running away when I kissed it's little head though, they still maintain I'm nuts. I went swimming with a green mamba once, my first multi sport experience. Someone saw the snake, yelled, I swam like a madman then ran like a bullet (actually I ran like a constipated duck because that's how I always run) then I realized I had left all my clothes and shoes by the river so I minced back and rescued them.


 

Anyway onto the planning – as you can tell form the above I have spent a chunk of my short life in Africa, I love the people and the countryside. I also love bikes. I have hatched a cunning scheme to combine my 2 passions in using one to help the other. Yep- I'm going to have Africans push me up hills. No, sadly it's a little more serious than that. Lots of people struggle to get to school and even if they could get there paying for it is a massive struggle, so is doing homework without an electric light. I'm not going to pretend I can solve the world's problems with a sturmey archer 3 speed but I do have a little scheme which I think might help.

Giving families a bike would allow them to

  1. sell their produce in urban areas and make a little bit of money which they could use to pay for an education or to improve housing/farmland (it's a bit hard trying to sell stuff to your neighbor when he grows the same stuff)
  2. get kids to and from school and allow medics or teachers to travel around more freely than they could on foot.
  3. generate enough electricity through a dynamo hub to power a small light bulb for a few hours a night
  4. have a piece of kit which they can easily fix themselves (or once person in each community can fix) and which has zero input/fuel costs.

It's a plan, if anyone has the kit/ideas/contacts to help (I need bikes, dynamos, transport, cash and brains) drop me a line jamesstout100 [at] gmail.com


 

In other news my chickens just dropped a massive egg, I mean it's bloody huge, I took a photo. At least 2 yolks, maybe 3. I don't envy the poor little birdie which had to lay it though.

Friday, 7 August 2009

It’s a family affair

S


 

Something happened at the time trial on Wednesday night which I never thought I would se, it was one of the most enjoyable experiences I have ever had in a time trial (Admittedly that isn't saying much).About 2 miles into my club 10 I passed the person who had started a minute in front. A 49 year old man on a cheap road bike, not much out of the ordinary there. The difference was, this was my dad!


 

Every time I go out to ride I'll always walk into the kitchen and mix my bottles and grab my trek bars from the box on the windowsill. Traditionally my mum/dad/sister will ask me what I'm doing and I'll tell them I'm going or a bike ride and ask I they want to come. They laugh, say no and off I go. My family aren't really into cycling, occasionally my mum will watch races and she supports me as much as she can. My dad was a pro rugby player and has never really been physically suited to a sport which favors those with a high power:weight ratio.

Anyway last week my dad asked what I was doing on weds night and I said iw as riding out to the club time trial and asked I he wanted to come. He had been riding or a little while on a bike I had built for him and I had suggested he do the tt. He said he was thinking about it. I called him at work and told him what to expect. I wasn't sure if he would make it so I set off to do my ride before the race. I arrived and signed on, as I was warming up I saw the amiliar shape of his estate car pulling in. Sure enough it was my dad, I helped him put on his number and made sure I was behind him. He was a little nervous but everyone was very encouraging. He didn't want to get overtaken by too many people. I started one minute behind and made sure to sit 100 yards behind rather than blowing straight past. Once I was sure he was safely riding on the biggest road o the course I came past and set into my tt rhythm. I wasn't as concerned with my race as catching a sight of my dad on the way back. After I finished I hung around at the end. About 5 minutes later my dad arrived, looking tired but exhilarated eh quickly integrated into the friendly banter in the gateway after the finish.

For someone who hasn't been riding much I was really impressed, I rode a nice tempo and logged a 24.08 for the ten on my road bike (I was pleasantly surprised given that this was my first effort since the op) my dad did a 28:36, this means an average of over 20mph, which is a very good first effort. My dad drove home in the car, I rode home (it's about 15 miles) . when we got back we had a pie and a chat and he admitted to quite enjoying it, the next day he even took 2 nakd bars to work instead of chocolate bars. A new leaf has been turned over and I'm proud to be part of it.

On Thursday night I did the elite race at castle coombe. Having been in Spain and San diego all year it's fair to say I have turned into a massive fairy boy and I was shivering about ten million times a second before the start of the race. I honestly feel that a snorkel would have been better than a helmet in conditions like that – I hung on for just over 8 of the 15 laps, people kept flying out of the back o the race and eventually I couldn't get around. I went back to the 4th cats (lower category riders) and did some solid work on the front of their bunch, I nearly managed to help them stay away from the elite (pro) field and win the handicap race. Sadly my scheme was foiled on the last lap but nonetheless my baptism of fire (or flood) was complete. It felt good to be doing a proper bike race again, one where you pin on your number properly and wear embrocation. Where everyone can ride their bike properly and the peloton goes through and off. Now I just need to get my legs back so I can ride like a proper racer!

Monday, 3 August 2009

Well, I'm back riding again which is great. Sadly the weather has decided to respond to my return to the road by unleashing the precipitation which I haven't experienced all year in California. Saturday was a wet one, as was Thursday. It's funny how quickly you loose the knack for riding in the rain. I very nearly ate asphalt on a couple of descents.

Sunday was a top notch day, nice weather and great company. I set of with the old men on the club run, it was great to go and do the club run, I remember when this was the highlight of my week, I'd take a rest the day before and eat lots of pasta. Now it's a nice easy paced ride of roughly 70 miles, we do a different route each week and take it in turns to lead. Generally the A and B runs meet at a café (see hwo I used an accent on café – take note) where we have tea and cakes. Then we head back to town, we normally have a little bit of a burn up towards the end to sprint for the 30 sign into town.

After we got to the café stop this week I headed the 40 or so miles over to Worcester to watch a local race which lots of friends were in. The only minor issue was that I wasn't entirely sure where it was. You see there are lots of little villages around here and I knew the one I wanted began with a K, problem is so do lots of them. This led to a bit of impromptu testing from one village to another and us rolling up as everyone was leaving. After a few chats I persuaded some of my mates to go change the route for their planned ride home so we could ride together. It's amazing what you can get people to do when you employ the "fat lazy slacker" line. We rolled around a few villages and then back towards our respective homes, we hadn't planned for the block headwind so it turned into a bit of a sufferfest.

A word of advice for anyone who wants to put in 120 miles on a Sunday – don't go out on the cider the night before, missing breakfast 'cos you feel hungover might result in you getting a little bit floozy! My bloodsugar wasn't in its happy place after 100 plus miles in the wind so we pulled into a garage and loaded up on vimto and boost bars which got me home. The debris from this ride was pretty amusing, I have just checked my bin and found 1 boost bar, 2 trek bars, 1 trek protein bar and a cocoa orange nakd bar (which was AWESOME). The hog roast I had on Saturday night also deserves a mention, perfect pre race fuel –no, yummy- yes.

Anyway when I got home I did my typical thing, having survived entirely on rectangular food until 4pm I raided the cupboards and gorged myself like a little piggy. Even after 22 years my mother remains amazed and somewhat disgusted at my ability to see off a whole biopot yogurt with honey nut loops, then go to town on some tuna pasta and still do some work on a Victoria sponge. So yeah, my cyclists' appetite has returned. Having looked at the bloodsugar numbers it's amazing what 3-4 days back training can do to the metabolism, maybe fat people might want to give it a try…….

Today's Monday. I have spent all day baking a courgette cake (yummy), making ratatouille (also yummy) and making a tt bike out of my old road bike (I'm not going to lie it's fugly). More on ming the merciless (which is what I'll be calling the new bike) as and when I can bring myself to go out on it.

peace