Saturday, December 24, 2011


2011 is all but over but there is still time for more plaudits to arrive at Mark’s door ! After all the achievements of 2011 what can he do in 2012 that will move the “ goal Posts ” further ?

Winning the Green Jersey of the Tour de France would be enough for most Cycle Racers but he has put in the work and thus conquered the Road Race World Championship and then took the victory at the Olympic Road Race trial event !

After the announcement of the demise of HTC high road Team most of the racers signed on with other teams but Mark bided his time and thus created a suspense filled with speculation on which team would win the race for his signature . Previous commitments to sponsors would have been part of the reason for the delayed announcement but the eventual decision in favour of “ Sky ” has been greeted with favour by his new team mates . Quite rightly they have recognised the “ added value ” that he brings to the team . Some people are able to motivate others to raise their sights and Mark is one of those individuals .

Normally the person wearing the World Champions Jersey has a quiet year and many speculate that it is a “ poisoned chalice ” but Cadel Evans was able to win one of Cycling’s Monuments whilst wearing the Jersey so it is conceivable that Mark will also raise the bar during the coming season . During his time with High Road Mark was advised by Eric Zabel amongst others and he appears to be the type who absorbs all the info fed to him and puts it to good use . Losing some of his former leadout train will not be of any great consequence as he has demonstrated his ability to do a “ Robbie Mc Ewan ” on more than one occasion including a lone winning sprint in this past Tour de France .

Missing out on medalling in the 2008 Beijing Olympic will only motivate him to greater efforts in the 2012 London Olympic Games . Should he be successful there it is quite possible that he will get the “ Royal Nod ” and be invited to Buck House once again to adjust his credentials . I am sure Peta would enjoy being Lady Peta !

Recently he has become quite the Media Star cleaning up all the “ Sporting Awards ” in which he has been proposed . Cycling and Bike Racing in recent times has become very much the “ In Sport ” thanks to his efforts and those of Sir Chris Hoy and Brad Wiggins . There is a wealth of talent in the British Cycling Team now and we should not overlook the talents of the likes of Geraint Thomas and others who will compete strongly for any of the places available for London 2012 !

2011 as been a great year for Mark and as he enjoys the festive season no doubt he will be reflecting on his great good fortune and seeking the inspiration to raise the stakes and make 2012 even more successful .

I for one would wish to be at ALL the events that he will be competing in as the wealth of talent out there will produce some memorable clashes of the Titans in 2012 !

Saturday, December 17, 2011


The Tour de Romandie 2012 will for the first time in my 12 visits cross into France with the third day starting there and continuing on to finish at Moutiers which the Tour de France has passed through on occasions . Whilst I can picture in my mind’s eye the start and finish towns I am wondering which climbs are en route ? Having cycled around Moutiers in training rides I am also mindful of passing through there when those clowns dressed as “ Kelme Racers ” butted into that Tour de France as it climbed to Courcheval nearly a decade ago , that sunny Sunday I climbed to the 1km mark before the Gendarmerie turned me back and so I arrived in Seez in time to watch the whole “ Soap Opera ” on the TV .

Below is a summary of the 2012 event lifted from Cycling News :

“ The 2012 Tour de Romandie starts with a prologue in Lausanne and ends nearly 700 kilometres later with a time trial in Crans-Montana. In between, the peloton will take on 13 ranked climbs in western Switzerland.
The race opens on April 24 with a 3.34 km prologue in Lausanne. Stage 1 the next day runs 184.5 km from Morges, on the shore of Lake Geneva, to La Chaux-de-Fonds. There are two Category 2 climbs and a Category 3 climb along the way, and the stage ends with a 67.7km loop course.
Stage two features for the first time a start in Montbéliard, France, and has a tricky end with a false flat 149km later in Moutier. The stage also has three Category 2 and 3 climbs. The third stage also throws in only Category 2 and 3 ranked mountains, as it goes 157.6 km from La Neuveville to Charmey.
The queen stage comes on the fourth stage, 184 km from Bulle to Sion. After crossing three category 1 and one category 2 climbs, the peloton will again face a circuit course at the finish.
The race ends with what it calls a “very difficult” time trial of 16.24 km around Crans-Montana. It features a climb halfway through which “will probably hurt the legs and be decisive” in determining the final overall winner.
All 18 WorldTour teams will be at the race, with a wildcard invitation going to “ Europcar” . A 20th team may be invited later. ”

The “ difficult ” ITT can’t be any tougher than the one that Lance won some years back when it started in Sion and finished on the summit village of Crans Montana Resort . I recall riding on the pavement alongside Lance as he spun the cranks to victory , even the short distance that I rode at a high tempo wasn’t enough to hold his pace as he climbed that steep pitched mountain so I don’t envy the racers the task this time around . Should it be warm then those racing will be glad that it is the final day !

Friday, December 2, 2011


So many people are aware of my 14 rides on the Routes of the Grand Tours and since i started blogging with " Parrabuddy " about two years ago they have enjoyed insights of behind the scenes action during each July .

There is one character originating from Holland that does the route the day before towing a trailor and starts as the signs go up . Spoke briefly with him on the 2010 tour as i had decided to do two stages the same day so as to have extra time in Morzine visiting friends in that area . This middle aged gent was also doing a film with a support team so whilst he knew about my episodes on the Tour he was not too keen to ride any of the route together . Suited me since i was travelling light and thus travelling faster and of course had far more distance to cover those two days . Whilst i slept at the finish in the Jura that night i guess he was camped along the route .

Uncharacteristically i took the car to Britany for the start one year expecting to connect with some acquintances who were to drive my car supporting three riding , with two on the road throughout each stage .

They on the other hand after a few days decided that they were not so interested to cover each stage in full so we went our separate ways . Thus i found that i was doing far more than the scheduled route each day with having to go back for the car and move it down the next days route so as to take advantage of any shortcuts that would be created by the Tour dog legging rather than when it travelled in a direct line . Similar situation occured in 2009 when in the last week the car was abandoned by the driver at the start in Martigny and i was looking for him in Bourg St Maurice .

Whilst on the Tour route that year i picked up with a couple of Americans for a few days and was introduced to the star of this post .

" GEORGETHECYCLIST " travels the world on his bike and if you go to you will enjoy a smorgesbord of stories from all over . Somewhere in his tales he has mentioned yours truly several times . So to start the third year of my blogging i will leave you with his story of our meeting . Sometime later i hope he will return with links to the various posts where he has mentioned many of our escapades :

" George on Skippy

Every June the week-long Dauphine-Libere in France is the final tune-up race for many of the riders planning to compete in the Tour de France. I too made it a preparatory race before attempting to follow my first Tour in 2004. It was in fact the first professional bicycle race I witnessed in Europe. It gave me a small glimpse of what La Grande Boucle would be like riding its course and submerging myself among the throngs along its route. I was hoping to find others similar to me on loaded touring bikes tagging along with the peloton. Unfortunately, over the years I have only happened upon a very small handful, rarely more than one or two a year making the attempt.

I did notice though at the Dauphine on several of the stages a tall, lanky, distinguished looking gentlemen with gray facial hair decked out in Lycra on a quality racing bike riding the course at a near racing clip. He was clearly a devotee of the sport, one of those cyclists who have logged so many hours on their bike they look as if they are at one with it, as if they virtually live on their bike. I immediately recognized him as a distinctive character, someone I would like to get to know. He was wearing an Italian club jersey, implying that was his nationality. That seemed natural, as the Italians are the most rabid of cycling fans. I doubted that he spoke English, so I did not make any effort to track him down, nor did any opportunity present itself to casually meet him.

It was no surprise to see him a couple weeks later at The Tour. He was looking as Italian as ever. Bike racing was clearly his life. I saw no others who even remotely compared to his dedication or flair. He was most definitely the ultimate of racing fans and followers.

Over the next couple of years I'd continue to catch glimpses of him, but without any contact. It wasn't until I met a German cyclist with panniers on his bike doing what I was doing did I finally learn who this Godfather of Tour followers was. The German said he had met him and claimed that he was an English-speaker, if Australians can be said to speak English. When he said "Australian" I didn't think I heard him correctly, thinking he meant Austrian. But no indeed, this fellow was Australian and was known as Skippy. It was towards the end of The Tour that year and I didn't see Skippy again. I returned the following year determined to finally meet him.
Coincidently that year I met an American cyclist from Texas by the name of Jesse who had teamed up with Skippy. Jesse was trying to ride The Tour route in its entirety, though using trains for the transfers between stages, in tribute to a cycling friend who had died of cancer. His brother was accompanying him, biking some, but also hopping aboard trains with their gear so Jesse's bike would be lighter. About a week into The Tour they met Skippy, who was trying to bike as much of the route too as he could, but also with the assistance of a car. He was looking for a driver. Jesse's brother assumed that role.
Jesse was experiencing pain in his knee so wasn't rocketing along as fast as he would have otherwise, more at my pace, allowing us to periodically ride together. He began telling me some of the extraordinary stories of Skippy's Tour experiences dating back to l998 when he was befriended by Marco Pantani. A day or two later when Skippy joined us as we were riding along, and I got a first hand dose of his stories, I quickly learned he was as well known in the peloton as The Devil, and knew quite a few people along The Tour route as well. He'd stopped and have a glass of wine with someone he knew and then catch back up to us.

In the years since our meeting we have become fellow comrade in arms making the effort to meet up as often as possible during The Tour to share our different perspectives and experiences. He hasn't stopped amazing me with who he has last bumped into and with anecdotes from his many Tours past, not only of France but Italy and Spain and others, hanging out with the riders at the start and finish of the stages and also riding with them on their rest days. I was thrilled when he finally started a blog in December of 2009 to put some of them in print.

If I had had any doubts as to his celebrity, they would have been laid to rest three Tours ago at the Grand Depart in Monaco, I was on the outskirts of the principality, just arriving on my loaded bike, when the French AGR2 team passed me as they were out on a training ride. One of the riders blurted, "Hey it's Skippy," a joking reference to me, as other than my similar gray beard and skinny figure, I would not be mistaken for Skippy, not wearing Lycra and chugging along on a loaded up bike. When I mentioned it to Skippy later in the day he said he would give those guys a scolding for having a laugh at his expense. For me though it was a high honor.