Thursday 15 November 2012

Who stole the trees?

Apparently thieves have stolen tree trunks from the course of the upcoming cyclo-cross at the Kapermolenpark in Hasselt, Belgium.

I hope they can be replaced before the event on Saturday as they are a vital part of the event, providing drama for spectators from those who make it over and those who don't, and usually influencing the result significantly.

Check out last years event to see just how important the tree trunks are for the race.

Tuesday 13 November 2012

Riders eye view of Cyclo Cross

This is great handlebar camera footage of the ‘Fixx Series’ A Race at Punnchestown Racecourse, Co Kildare last weekend. Pity there're no run ups or planks.

Tuesday 23 October 2012

Some questions for Pat McQuaid on todays Pat Kenny show

Pat mc Quaid is due to appear on the Today with Pat Kenny on RTE radio this morning. I've sent in the following questions. Hopefully Pat K will push Pat Mc for some real answers. We, the UCI's members, deserve it.

 I understand that you are going to be interviewing Pat McQuaid today and would very much like to suggest some questions you might want to put to him:

 1) Why, as President of the UCI, does he refuse to accept responsibility for that organisations complete lack of objectivity regarding Lance Armstrong. It's not good enough for him to claim events happened before he became President. He is being asked to speak for the organisation, not himself.

 2) Why, as current President of the UCI, does he refuse to condemn the obviously self serving and patently false utterances of his predecessor, Hein Verbruggen.

 3) Why, despite growing evidence, did he consistently ignore the growing testimonies of former Lance colleagues, preferring instead to parrot the self serving scorn Lance himself poured on them. That continues even today :

 4) Any objective review of recent events shows that the UCI preferred to bask in the reflected glory and income of the Armstrong years rather than effectively police the sport we, the UCI's members, have entrusted to them. Does he not now believe that the dual roles of promoting and policing the sport are conflicting interests and must now be seperated. Failure to do so will inevitably result in that policing role eventually being removed form the UCI and being taken up to national authorities, who have, it has to be said, have been far more effective than any of the much (self) trumpeted efforts of the McQuaid/Verbruggen regime.

 5) As an Irish cyclist, who has known Pat McQuaid for most of my life, I would very much like to say I'm proud that one of our own holds such a prominent role in our sport but recent events make that very difficult, especially since some of the real heroes of this story are also members of the Irish cycling family. At no time has Pat McQuaid shown any solidarity with any of his compatriots, sitting pretty in his pro-Lance bubble while a thoroughly decent Irish woman, Emma O'Reilly, was ruthlessly bullied by his American friends, not to mention his former fellow Irish team member, Paul Kimmage. Did Pat, at any time make contact with Miss O'Reilly, to seek out her side of the story?

Monday 16 July 2012

Dublin - Drogheda 1933

The full title of this amazing clip is:

 "Cycle Road Race. E G Dunne (Harp CC) wins the Continental Handicap Cycle Race from Dublin to Drogheda for the Alderman Down Cup presented by the Mayor."

Look at the crowds!

The Science Behind the Bike - Part 4


Thursday 8 March 2012

Monday 5 March 2012

Get a bus

On Saturday, just outside Lusk, Co. Dublin, a group of us were stopped beside the road, waiting for one of our colleagues to replace a punctured tube, when a man passed us on his morning walk.

In his broad Kerry accent, and in the friendliest tone, he uttered what has to rank among the all time great lines:

"Ah lads, would ye not save up and buy yourselves a bus."

Saturday 3 March 2012

A last act of generosity

I went out training with Ian Gallahars club, Dublin Wheelers, today.

They always stop at the same cafe in Ashbourne. This morning the owner announced that Ian had given her €50 three weeks ago to buy teas and coffees for the group the following Saturday.

For various reasons she wasn't there for the last few weekends so today was the first opportunity she'd had to spread his generosity,  4 days after his sudden death.

Almost everyone in the cafe knew Ian from his long and dedicated service to the sport. As you can imagine it was a poignant moment.

We all raised our mugs to a decent man before heading back out on roads he'd ridden so often, and so recently, himself.

Thursday 1 March 2012

Get in the Bike Lane - Postscript

After looking on Google Street View I'm now questionning the correctness of the Garda telling me to get out of the bus lane and onto the off road bike line on Mount Merrion Ave. (see

Look at this picture:

According to the signs there is an off road cycle track, shared with pedestrians, but the other sign says the bus lane is also for bikes. So was I within my rights riding in the bus lane or does the very presence of a dedicated bike path mean I HAVE to ride in it? But then again, that isn't a dedicated bike lane, it's a footpath/bike lane so which one takes priority?


Me too!

Wednesday 29 February 2012

Ian Gallahar RIP

I was saddened to hear today of the passing of Ian Gallahar.

Ian was a long time member of the Dublin Wheelers CC, first as a rider and then as a distinguished organiser and Commissaire.

I first met Ian as a kid because he was a friend of my Dads, but got to know him better when I started racing myself. Ian was one of those ever-presents on the Irish cycling scene, working hard to ensure races were run safely and efficiently. In recent years he was a highly respected Commissaire, applying the same steady hand regardless of whether the race in question was a high profile international event or a Tuesday evening Park Gallop.

He really was an unsung hero of the sport and will be sadly missed. RIP.

Get in the bike lane

A typical Dublin bike lane!
(not the one the post is about though)
The other morning, for the first time, I was told by a Garda to get off the road and on to a bike lane. He found it necessary to flash the blue lights on his van while he was telling me so it was all very official!

Technically he was right, given that S.I. No. 274/1998 — Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) (Amendment) Regulations, 1998 state:


(a) Subject to paragraph (b), a pedal cycle must be driven on a cycle track where one is provided.

(b) Paragraph (a) shall not apply in the case of a cycle track on the right-hand edge of which traffic sign number RRM 023 has been provided,

(i) where a person driving a pedal cycle intends to change direction and has indicated that intention, or
(ii) where a bus is stopped in the cycle track at a point where traffic sign RUS 031 (bus stop) is provided, or
(iii) where a vehicle is parked in the cycle track for the purpose of loading or unloading.

However, in my circumstances, and in the case of many, many other cycle lanes throughout the city these regulations bear no relation to reality.

On the occassion in question I was cycling up Mount Merrion Ave when the Garda moved me off the road. Let me describe the scene. Mount Merrion Avenue starts at Blackrock. The first section is flat and narrow. Cars are parked on the left and traffic is forced very much towards the inside due to the narrowness of the road. No seperate provision has been provided for cyclists who have to constantly avoid wing mirrors on both sides and frequently have to slow to avoid being run into parked cars or the side of the road by traffic.

At the end of this stretch there is a major junction to the right. Here the traffic splits into two lanes although there is barely space to accomodate that. Inevitably the result is no space on the left for cyclists to pass stationary traffic. It's not unusual for vehicles to suddenly veer to the left, in front of riders, despite having just passed that same cyclist yards before.

Through the lights the road widens considerably. All of a sudden, now there is space for it, an on-road cycle track starts. Or to be more precise there are road markings on the left designating a section of the road for cyclists. Shortly after that a bus lane appears, so you now have, from the left, a cycle lane then a bus lane, then a traffic lane. I should point out that traffic at this stage is almost always fairly light. I have never seen a tailback on this section. Even when there is a vehicle trying to turn right into an entrance, other cars can use the bus lane to pass. There is no parking on the left.

This is the perfect scenario for riding (apart from the increasing gradient - but that's another story!). The way is clear, the surface is good, no traffic is getting in anyone else's way and everyone is progressing nicely.

Then, at a point where an exit from a housing development comes from the left, the bike lane suddenly, without warning and for no apparent reason, transfers on to the footpath, behind a row of trees. The first few times I rode this stretch I completely missed the transition. There's no on-road indication of it to cyclists. If you look closely enough you'll find two signs high above any cyclists eyeline, one indicating the end of the on-road lane and another, against a tree, indicating the start of a shared footpath/cycle path.

From here cyclists very definitely get pushed to the bottom of the food chain. The off-road bike lane is an obstacle course of tree debris (particularly bad in autumn but likely to cause a puncture at any time of year), signage poles, lighting poles, bus stops, sunken and/or raised manhole covers, pedestrians ignoring the distinctly marked seperation of the paths and, most dangerously of all, traffic coming from the left.

That traffic comes from two places. The whole way up is dotted with concealed entrances. Being leafy suburbia most houses are detached with big hedges and mature greenery. There are very few where either the driver, emerging out across the footpath/cycle lane, or the cyclist, trying to negotiate the many hazards in their path, can see the other. Inevitably drivers rarely feel it their duty to allow cyclists pass, when they do spot them, instead driving out and stopping across the bike lane, waiting for a chance to head out onto the road proper.

Worse still, there are several road junctions emerging on to Mount Merrion Avenue from the left. The cyclist has gone from having right of way over all of these, by virtue of being on the "main" road, to having no priority at all, by virtue of being on the footpath. Cars coming from the left will inevitably stop/yield across the line taken by cyclists moving from the path section on one side of the junction to the path section on the other. Cyclist must now stop to allow them pass.

Finally, the cyclist emerges, panting, at the top of the hill, where Mount Merrion Avenue meets the Stillorgan dual carriageway (N11). The cyclist either turns left onto the (very poor) cycle lane at the side of the dual carriageway or turns right, to try to get onto the cycle lane along the far side of the N11. However, neither of these options is legally catered for. There are no cycle lane markings whatever at the junction meaning that technically, the cyclist is now riding on a footpath which is illegal.

Along the whole stretch where cyclists are forced onto the path, the bus lane continues, well surfaced, free from most vehicles, with right of way at junctions and almost unused by buses. I ride this route at least three times a week and rarely have seen any busses at all. I have never come across a situation where traffic conditions would have prevented a bus simply passing a cyclist riding in the bus lane.

The Garda was completely within his rights to move me from the safe, free flowing option I had chosen to the hazardous, lower priority option which, at times, forced me to break the law. How mad is that!

This is just one of several such legal anomolies I negotiate on my commute. Others include lanes in such poor condition they are hardly visible, let alone ride-able, one junction where a cyclist can't legally turn left even though cars MUST turn that way, a long stretch of shared foot/cycle path where a cyclist can't legally enter or leave the cycle lane and many, many very poorly maintained stretches of road where no lanes exist at all.

The regulation quoted above shows how poorly thought out this situation is. For example, subsection (iii) of paragraph (b) only allows a rider to avoid cars parked "for the purpose of loading or unloading". However, most cars parked in bike lanes are there simply because everyone knows that they will get away with it. So according to the law we cannot leave the lane to avoid illegally parked cars, especially where the lane doesn't have an unbroken line on the right hand side (traffic sign number RRM 023!).

This situation is farcical. Given that there is obviously no funding or political will to provide proper, safe, free flowing cycle facilities that afford cyclists at least the same priority as other traffic, the only sensible option is to repeal the law that forces a cyclist to use a bike lane whether it is the safest option or not. Riders are already running the gauntlet of traffic, weather and poor roads, they should at least have the option to choose a safe route.

Friday 17 February 2012

UK bus driver jailed for hitting cyclist

From todays Irish Times:

UK bus driver jailed for hitting cyclist

Obviously something happened before this incident to lead to the cyclist berating the driver. Whatever the wisdom of the cyclist choosing to get involved there can be no justification for what followed.

Lesson to cyclists: don't get involved on the street if an incident happens. Take the bus details and report the driver to the Company AND the Police.

If you can't access the Irish Times here's the video:

Friday 10 February 2012

Kimmage on the Contador case

Unfortunately, Newstalk 106 haven't kept this interview available online. Sorry about that.

Listen to Paul Kimmage give his usual forthright views on the Contador and Armstrong cases. Riis, paedophiles and doping all in one sentence!

The Kimmage interview starts about half way through.

Thursday 26 January 2012

Interesting analysis of the substances found in Alexandre Dougnier

My last post outlined the story of Alexandre Dougnier, a 19 year old 3rd cat riding for ACBB in Paris, who was found guilty of having 12 banned substances in one sample.

I mentioned that details were sketchy in reports of the story so I was very interested to see this post giving more details of the actual substances found.

Assuming this information is accurate it paints a very worrying picture of a young man trying his luck with a cocktail of drugs. Did he have any idea, or care, about the effects of mixing these drugs in his young body? Was he advised by someone who should know better or was he doing his own research, possibly online? And where did he get them all? I don't know much about the French health system but in Ireland most, if not all, of these substances can only be obtained under prescription. How did he get around that?

For his sake, and for the sake of other youngster in the sport, I really hope someone, and preferably not the cycling authorities, is seriously investigating this case.

Tuesday 24 January 2012

In for a penny....

We've all heard the phrase "the innocence of youth" but a doping case just announced in France has shown how that innocence, or possibly naivety, can become a cause for major guilt.

The French Cycling Federation  has just handed down a three-year suspension to 19-year-old Alexandre Dougnier, a young third category rider. Dougnier tested positive for no less than 12 different banned substances last year. The local AC Boulogne-Billancourt club rider, was unexpectedly tested on May 17, after a race in Aubervilliers.

According to the Federation, his urine sample contained traces of the following substances: 3'HydroxyStanozolol, 16B-HydroxyStanozolol, 4B-HydroxyStanozolol, 4-Meyhylhexaneamine, Prednisone, Prednisolone, Oxandrolone, Epioxandrolone, Tuaminoheptane, Triamcinolone Acetonide, 6B-HydroxyMethandienone and 17-Epiméthandienone.

The youngster wasn't provisionally suspended until August 18, a full three months after the test, so the ban dates from then meaning he can't race until August 18, 2014.

While the sheer number of substances makes this an almost farcical story, coming as it does in the wake of the Gregory Bauge case  it makes you wonder if French cycling's much vaunted no doping culture is starting to come apart at the seams. Dougnier was only racing at a local level but ACBB is a big club with a big reputation. Was he playing the system or was it playing him?

The report doesn't give any details of how much of each substance was in his sample, or how they all got into his system. Do they all occur in one product or was this guy on a cocktail of  medicines? If so, where did he get them? In my mind that is a question worth answering but, unfortunately, current anti-doping procedures are only geared to finding out the what and how much questions. To really get to grips with doping, and to protect young men like Dougnier from themselves, does the process need to start  investigating the how and who issues too?

Monday 23 January 2012

Pat McQuaid - Trolley Dolly

Seeing the writing on the wall for UCI revenues, when one of the many mooted breakaway leagues actually sticks, Pat McQuaid has given himself something to fall back on by getting a job as an air steward with Irish airline, Aer Lingus.

Anyone for tea?

Saturday 7 January 2012

2012 Irish Cyclo-cross Championships

Despite car trouble and then camera trouble I managed to get these not very good pics of today's Irish Cyclo-cross Championships in St. Annes Park, Raheny, Dublin. Many congratulations to Robin Seymour on his quite amazing 18th title. Can anything stop this man!

Robin Seymour on his way to yet another victory
Two time champion, Roger Aiken, chased hard but
couldn't catch Seymour
Banbridge CC was well represented.

Seymour wins.

Aiken 2nd

Nerves of steel!

Monday 2 January 2012

Review of the Cycling Year 2011

I know the muse-ette has been a bit quiet lately, for lot's of reasons, but it'd be a shame to let the New Year period pass without the the annual, unprestigious Muse-ette Awards.

So here, in no particular order, are the 2011 muse-ette Awards:

Best Stage Race: After last years snub of the Grand Tours by the muse-ette awards, which I know they took note of, this year saw them clean up their acts considerably. As far as I know the only positive in any of the three great races was Alexandr Kolobnevs for the diuretic, hydrochlorothiazide (HCT) during the TDF. So the way is clear for the award this year to go to Le Tour De France for giving us one of the most exciting and remarkable races for years. From Johnny Hoogerlands heroics to Tommy Voecklers determination to Cadels domination from the start in Brittany to the top of the podium in Paris, it was a vintage year for Le Grand Boucle. Honourable Mention goes to La Vuelta, which was gripping at least until the anti-climax that was the final week.

Best Stage in a Grand Tour: There really is no contest here. Stage 18 of the Tour from Pinerolo to Le Galibier had it all. Uncharacteristically aggressive tactics from the Schlecks, Nico Roche in the break, Cadels cool as a cucumber display of sheer power and Tommy Voeckler defying the odds to hold on to the jersey for one more day. Fantastic. Honourable Mention: For us Paddies special mention has to go to stage 9 of the Vuelta from Villacastín to La Covatilla. It was already special when the Roche/Martin cousins went up the road together on the final climb but then we were screaming at the telly as young Dan sprinted clear at the summit to take his first Grand Tour stage win.

Best One Day Race: For the second year in a row the Tour of Flanders. Apart from the fact I was actually there this year, which always makes a race special, it was a great race. Fabian showed he's human, Gilbert had a good go and then Nuyens gave the home fans something to cheer by Nick-ing it (ouch!) on the line. The initiative of showing camera footage from the team cars was a great addition too. Honourable Mention: This doesn't go to a single race but to the full set of Monuments, all of which went to first time winners this year.

Best Finish: A slightly churlish choice but I did enjoy seeing Gilbert do over not one, but two, Schlecks at Liege. All the fancy scarves and rider poaching couldn't buy the Lay-O-Paaaards the tactical nous and hunger Gilbert displayed in abundance that day.

Best Irish Rider: No question about this. Bagging a Grand Tour stage, a second-but-should-have-won in Lombardy, a very close second in the Tour of Poland and finishing in the top ten in the World Rankings means Dan Martin walks it. Honourable Mentions: Mark Rohan for his two handcycling Rainbow Jerseys in the same year and Martyn Irvine who's edging ever closer to securing his place in the Olympic Velodrome in London.

Best Young Rider: I'm staying domestic for this one and awarding it to Lakeside Wheelers rider Damien Shaw. Damien had a meteoric 2011, rising through the categories to win a silver medal at the National Criterium Championships on home turf in Mullingar. Other highlights included finishing 6th, among the pros, at the National TT champs and numerous wins around the country. In addition to his domestic heroics Damien's also gained world class Paralympic status as a visually impaired riders pilot on the track.

Team performance of the Year: Team GB for their clinical domination of the Worlds. They gave a masterclass in team work to get Cav to the line before everyone else. Honourable mentions: An Post - Sean Kelly for a) just being there and b) winning the sprints jersey and a stage at the Tour of Britain. BMC for overcoming their obvious shortcomings to help Cadel win yellow.

Disappearing Team of the Year: A close call but it has to go to HTC-Highroad. I still don't get how the worlds best team failed to find a sponsor. Makes you wonder if Bill Stapleton really knew what he was doing or if he really tried at all. Honourable Mention: After two great years, Munster team The Edge look likely to bite the dust over the winter. Hats off to Timmy Barry, Sean Lacey et al for giving it a good go.

Most Embarrassing Moment of the Year: As if being mistaken for a Dane at the Tour in 2009 wasn't bad enough, Bertie had to listen to the wrong anthem again this year. Giro organisers mistakenly played the old, fascist, Franco-era anthem La Marcha Granadera instead of the newer instrumental version called La Marcha Real which was introduced 3 years after the dictators death in 1978.

The X-factor Award for Dragging Out The Announcement of a Decision Award: CAS for STILL not letting us know if Bertie actually won the Tour in 2010 or not. How long does it take?

The Thierry Henry Cheat of the Year Award: Guess who??? Ricco's return to the top was shortlived after he decided to enact an episode of ER in his own living room and ended up in a real ER. Thankfully not too many Dishonourable Mentions this year: Kolobnev, Garcia Da Pena, Vazquez Hueso, Locke.

The John McEnroe Award for Throwing Your Toys Out Of The Pram: Italian champion Giovanni Visconti for throwing away the chance to win a stage of the Giro in the Tricolore jersey by losing his rag at Diego Ulissi in the sprint to the line in Tirano. Visconti was relegated to third after taking is hands off the bars to push his rival when he reckoned Ulissi closed him out against the barriers. Honourable Mention: Jens Voigt for his one-man crusade to save the sport from the life threathening radio ban.

The No News is Bad News Award: Yet again it seems there's no shortage of sponsors prepared to cash in on the column inches generated by returning cheats, no matter how unwelcome they might be. Step up Miche, employers of both Rebellin AND Schumacher in 2011.

The Don Corleone Award for Making an Offer they Can't Refuse Award: UCI for "clarifying" the consequences to sponsors of not riding the Tour Of Beijing over such a trivial matter as race radios.

The Triathlon Award for Combining Seemingly Unrelated Sports to Make a New One: Bertie for inventing Cyclo-Boxing with that right hook to the jaw of a fake medic on Alpe D'Huez. "Suggest I'm a doper, will you? Take that!". Honourable Mention: Johnny Hoogerland for inventing Breakaway Showjumping while unsuccessfully trying to clear a fence during stage 9 of the TDF

The My Best Day on a Bike This Year Award: 2nd April 2011 when I got to ride on hallowed ground. The cobbled classics have always been my favourite races so getting to join almost 20,000 other riders at the Tour Of Flanders Sportive, in glorious weather, was a dream come true. Top that, 2012. Honourable mention: 24th September 2011 was the day of the Equinox Cycle from Howth to Galway, in aid of Temple St Childrens Hospital and Headway. 150 miles from door to door in nice weather and among great company all while raising over €15,000 for worthy causes.

The My Worst Day on a Bike This Year Award: Despite the awful conditions, not even the Wicklow 200 wins this. I'm happy to say there just aren't any worst days on the bike for me at the moment.

Finally, as ever, 2011 has seen the passing of some cycling greats:

Derek Owens, 41, my ex-Eagle CRC clubmate and training buddy as schoolboy and junior, lost his fight with cancer this year.
Wouter Weylandt, 26, Leopard-Trek rider died in full view of the TV cameras after a freak crash on stage 3 of the Giro, having won the corresponding stage last year.
xavier Tondo, 32, tragically crushed in his garage on 23rd May, Tondo was one of the good guys who reputedly rode his bike simply because he loved it. Deserves to be remembered for his courage in reporting a doping ring to the polive earlier in the year.
Bobby Power, 56, Irish cycling legend and multiple Ras stage winner Bobby gave as much to the sport as he ever got from it.
Niall Jenkins, Irish track sprinter best known for winning the Irish National Tandem Sprint Championships in 2007 and finishing a great 4th at World Master's Sprint Champs the same year. Also represented Ireland as a pilot at the Paracycling Track World Championships 2007.
Terry Colbert, stalwart of Tailteann CC in the 1960's
Danny O'Shea, Sorrento CC, tireless commissaire and timekeeper. One of those unsung heroes without whom cycle sport wouldn't exist.
Peter Post, 77, Dutch Paris-Roubaix winner, Six Day champion and legendary manager of the TI-Raleigh and Panasonic teams.
Alberto León, 37, Spanish Mountain Biker committed suicide after having been arrested for his alleged role in blood doping rings.
Fedor den Hertog, 64, Olympic Team Time Trial champion in 1968, Tour de France and Vuelta stage winner, Dutch Pro Champion.
Carla Swart, 23, HTC-Highroad pro died after being hit by a truck while training in her native South Africa.
Emile Masson Jr., 95, winner of 1939 Paris-Roubaix
Lewis Balyckyi, 18, former member of British Cycling's Olympic Talent Team and British Youth Circuit Champion, killed while training in Lancashire
Carly Hibberd, 26, Australian rider hit by car while training in northern Italy.

May they, and all other cyclists lost this year, rest in peace.

Finally, once again, thanks for reading the admittedly sparse mutterings from the muse-ette in 2011. I wish you all a very Happy New Year and many enjoyable miles in 2012.