Tomorrow is 2009. It feels a long way from 2006 when Floyd Landis won the Tour de France. Today sees the closure of Trust But Verify, a daily media monitoring blog started by cyclist Dave Brower. His writing was soon joined by two external, expert authors (one of whom was a judge) and there was always a very lively bunch of forum commentators.
The closure of TbV is to be expected. Landis lost. It was always going to be so. Guilty of strapping on man-juice or not, he never stood a chance. We know this now. Many couldn’t believe the appeals procedure would allow the ‘conviction’ of somebody when the evidence was so contradictory.
Some of those incredulous few have been asked to write some closing statements on TbV, myself included. My screed is repeated below but it’s well worth spending some time reading the closing statements from the experts, most of whom think the anti-doping system stinks. But there are also some dissenting voices, folks who think the right guy was nailed and that no misfeasance took place at all.
The experts include lawyers, doctors, testosterone testing experts, bloggers, racers and high-calibre scientists. Many of those saying their goodbyes were principal players in the Floyd Landis v WADA saga.
Here’s my valedictory:
Trust But Verify is closing, but I don’t feel closure.
And if I also feel somewhat bitter and twisted, that’s nothing to how Floyd Landis must have felt since the beginning of this sorry saga.
I came into this subject equipped with standard-issue, media-myopia goggles. WADA was pure, accused athletes were dirty, cheating scum.
I’m saying my goodbyes to TbV a whole lot more cynical about the anti-doping process. As TbV demonstrated, the anti-doping movement is enclosed, self-perpetuating and omnipotent. It resembles a religious cult. Leaders who brook no opposition; acolytes willing to do or die for the leadership; a central, easily-absorbed, hard-to-refute moral tenet (’you’re bad, we’re good’); exterior, no-strings funding; hair-trigger lynch-mob mentality; and Spanish Inquisition style jurisprudence.
Fanciful? A touch. But viewed through this prism it’s now clear Landis never stood a chance. You can’t attack a faith-based system with rationality or science, a faith-based system operates to its own, bendable rules.
Landis may have lost, but his fight - documented so well by TbV - opened a lot of people’s eyes, mine included. Injustice is in the DNA of WADA. Without a major overhaul of how accusations can be refuted, innocent athletes will continue to be ensnared alongside guilty ones. This isn’t right, it isn’t fair. Welcome to WADA world.
I didn’t recommend any books, not even the Bike to Work Book. I’d like to recommend some now.
50 Quirky Bike Rides Rob Ainsley Eye Books (2008)
This is a gem of a book, written by the author of some of the Bluffer’s Guides. It contains ride ideas in England and Wales, all based on features which are the ‘best’, the ‘longest’, the ’strangest’ or the ’steepest’. Some are obvious, such as rattling down Shaftsbury’s Gold Hill, setting of the 1970s Hovis TV advert by Ridley Scott.
Others are less obvious, such riding on the extremely short road leading into London’s Savoy Hotel, the only place in Britain where you can use the right hand side of the road in both directions. Even the traffic lights are on the ‘wrong’ side of the road.
My favourite routes in the book are those suggesting rides on evocative - and sometimes bumpy - Roman roads. Some of these rides require long-distance sorties in wild uplands. Just my kind of trips.
If distance riding is your thing, how about the world’s longest cycle path? How long is long? Six billion kilometres. In reality, it’s just 24kms but the York Planets cycle path, adorned with a model of the solar system, is correctly scaled. Pluto is mounted to a post just outside Riccall. Ride for 2.5kms to reach Neptune. Ride another 3kms to see Uranus. After Bishopthorpe, the planets come thick and fast, just metres apart.
This Sustrans sculpture trail is mirrored by another stellar route, between Taunton and Bridgwater. And this is one of the beauties of 50 Quirky Bike Rides: it gives the main ride idea and then follows it up with ‘other places like this’. So, 50 rides is the minimum, there are plenty more ride ideas in the book, if you dig.
The book also has a companion website, www.bizarrebiking.com, with links to Google maps of the rides, and two sample chapters.
City Cycling Richard Ballantine Snow Books (2007)
Ballantine, author of the million-selling Richard’s Bicycle Book, is urban bicycling’s most strident sage. His advice on staying alive in city traffic is brilliant (he’s big into bail-outs for when you or a motorist fluff a manouevre) yet his roots as an anarchic rider in 1970s New York are still evident in this book. He advocates ‘early greens’, shorthand for busting through red lights in certain situations, for instance when it’s dangerous not to, or there’s no-one around to tut-tut.
Ballantine is always entertaining, always thought-provoking and nearly always controversial. In this book he advocates free public transport for all as a way out of city gridlock. Sounds positively Maoist but, let the idea sink in, and it soon makes a lot of sense, especially in an age when the concept of free market economics has been shown to be a sham. When the auto industry is threatened with collapse, world governments don’t let market forces hold sway, they jump in to ‘protect jobs’. There’s no premonition of this in City Cycling but Ballantine wistfully looks forward to the day when bikes rule in city centres.
Watch out for more bike titles from Snow Books. There’s going to be a revised reprint of the Bicycle Design book by Mike Burrows and a book on family cycling by yours truly.
The subhead tells you precisely what to expect to find in this warts-and-all biography. Riding for a living in the cycling hotbed of Belgium is not glamorous, it’s a life of grind. The grit’s for real. But it’s a life atmospherically given wings by Parkin, a former US pro. Parkin was advised by Bob ‘Bobke’ Roll to ride in Belgium if he wanted to get on in the world of cycling.
Love to pore over the grainy, black and white images of cobble racing in Rouleur? You’ll relish - and re-read - this book.
Good Beer Guide West Coast USA Ben McFarland & Tom Sandham Campaign for Real Ale (2008)
OK, this isn’t strictly a bike book. In fact, it isn’t even a lax bike book. It’s very much a beer book. But, there’s some bike content and it’s well worth wading through the beer to get to it. The chapter on Portland, Oregon, for instance, is a mouth-watering eye-opener. Not only is the city fantastic for bicycling, it’s also tops for beer, too.
The Portland chapter says Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons, chose some character names from Portland streets (Quimby, Flanders and Montgomery). It also has half a page on bike routes. Mmm, bikes.
Read the rest of "Spend your Christmas gift tokens on bike books"...
As you can probably tell, I love Issuu.com. It’s a brilliant place to make your PDF documents spring to life, as per the card above and the thousands of mainstream mags and books now uploaded to the site by some of the world’s biggest publishers.
Just one version of the book (there are 15 on Issuu.com, the rest personalised for companies and advocacy orgs) has had 13,471 reads. Add the other versions - some of which have had 1000+ views and where the back-end stats tell me that half of all readers flick through every single page - and the book is a runaway best-seller!
I love the fact it’s doing as well as the Jamie Oliver cookery magazine.
Below is a statement I’m going to give to the police tomorrow. I reported a road rage and assault incident earlier today. The statement has had identifying details removed.
When you get to the end you’ll see there’s a funny side to the story, but also a worrying side.
Two skinny roadies - me and Dave - could be charged with assaulting a burly Border Reiver type, built like the proverbial brick outhouse, and with fists the size of my head.
Now, we were non-violent (so would you be if you saw the width of the driver’s shoulders) but the driver and his mate pulled a fast one on us and, if the police believe them, we could be for the drop.
UPDATE: A policeman came to take down our statements. Dave had already decided that if the driver didn’t make up a cock-and-bull story and accuse him of assault, he would let the matter drop.
The policeman read my statement below and said he didn’t know what the other party was going to do. Dave asked him for clarification on this and the policeman rang through to the police officer in another force who was dealing with the incident.
She said the whole incident sounded “ridiculous” and that the driver complained I had been in his way. But he didn’t make a complaint that Dave hit him, which, given the guy’s theatricals, was our main worry.
I’d say there was clear case of dangerous driving involved here but, with no witnesses, there’s little the police can do.
The policeman said every driver needs to exercise caution on flooded roads and shouldn’t expect a cyclist to ride through surface water.
Dave said: “There could be a pothole under a big puddle.”
The policeman agreed: “I hit one last night, it nearly broke my car’s wishbone.”
As an aside, the policeman expressed amazement that we had cycled from Newcastle to Mitford:
“I’d get tired doing that in my car,” he said.
At approximately 10.55am on Wednesday 17th December I was cycling with a friend - Dave Goodwin - north on a minor country lane between the B6524 and the village of Mitford.
Dave was 20-30 metres ahead of me. The road was slightly downhill and was partially flooded, with deep puddles either side of the road and unknown number of potholes hidden by the surface water.
We had been cycling from Newcastle, approx 20 miles away, and I was now warm enough to take off my gloves. I looked behind me and saw no vehicle. Thinking I was safe, I took off one glove as I was riding along. Before I took off the second glove I instinctively looked behind me and was surprised to see a vehicle, approaching fast.
As there was a flooded area coming up I was 1.5 metres from the left hand verge to avoid what could be a deep hole. I assumed the car would have to slow, and pass me once I had passed the flood. I didn’t think it would be able to pass me as at this point as there was no room for safe overtaking.
Within a split second I realised the vehicle had not slowed down. It was a 4×4 and it ploughed into the right hand grass verge, spraying flood water as it drove past at 30-40mph. The vehicle had been inches from my right hand side. The driver of the vehicle must have been able to see me from a long distance away. Stunned at the passing move at speed, with the vehicle veering on to the verge, I was shocked at the proximity of the vehicle and I shouted:
“You nearly f***ing killed me! You can’t do that!”
At this, the driver of the vehicle jammed on his brakes and stopped abruptly. I left the road and ended up on the muddy verge on the car’s left hand side.
Two men got out of the vehicle (a Nissan 4×4, licence number 00000) and the driver (white, aged about 50, and about 5ft 8, and dressed in a brown waterproof jacket, sturdy boots and with a fleece hat) came across to me, effing and blinding.
He came very close to my face and had his fist by the side of his head and pointed at my face, as though he was about to strike me. His hands were far wider than the average man’s hand and I feared that if he hit me, as he was verbally threatening to do, I would be badly hurt. He kept his fist in this position for some time.
His passenger - about the same age as the driver, 5ft 10, with glasses and dressed in a green fleece and also wearing sturdy boots - was doing his best to calm down the driver, urging him not to hit me.
Dave had by this time come to my side and was also urging the driver not to hit me, saying it ‘wasn’t worth it.’
The driver spat as he shouted at me: “You had your hands off your bike! Your mate was in the middle of the road!”
I told the driver and the passenger I had been removing my gloves, there were obstacles in the road I couldn’t avoid and that he should have slowed down and waited the few metres until I had passed the flooded area.
The claim that I was riding no-handed was repeated, with venom. The driver then said:
“You were going very fast, we could hardly catch up to you.”
I don’t remember riding for any great distance with my hands off the handlebars although might have done fleetingly. However I was definitely holding one side of the bars when the driver closed in on me and came past me. The other hand was still putting a glove in my rear jacket pocket, even when the driver came past and mounted the verge with his right set of wheels.
At this point I was not travelling very fast, perhaps 15mph.
As the driver was still threatening violence – with his fist quivering as if on a hair-trigger – Dave told him he had better stop or he would call the police. The driver urged him to do so.
Dropping his fist, the driver returned to the car. I took out my mobile phone (an iPhone) and took a photograph of the car’s number plate. At this the driver ran back to me, snatched the phone off me and said: “What are you doing with that thing?”
I said I was taking a photo of his number plate to give to the police, and asked him nicely to give back the phone.
He refused and appeared to want to throw the phone over into the field behind me. He also looked at the ground briefly and I feared he might smash the phone off the road. Again, I urged him to give back the phone, and I might have said something along the lines of ‘you’re stealing it,’ or similar.
He shoved it back at me, hitting my chest with it, and I held on to it. My photos of the incident are not terribly good because each time I raised it to take photos, the driver made a move to come running to grab it again. In the end I hid it in my jacket, although I had managed to get some photos of his registration number.
By now there were three or four vehicles stuck either side of the Nissan, unable to pass on such a narrow lane.
I took my phone and went to the back of the car to take photos of the flooded area and the verge the driver had mounted to get past me.
The passenger now started taking photographs of us with his mobile phone, saying he would report us to the police because I had shouted at them when they overtook me. We were happy for him to take photographs and told him so.
Thinking the incident was now over, Dave went back to retrieve his bike, 20-30 metres away. While I was taking photos of the verge, I heard shouting and saw that the driver had followed Dave. The driver had his fists clenched by his side. Under no provocation whatsover, the driver hit Dave on the back of the head, just under his helmet. Dave, who until now had been a peacemaker, was infuriated and walked towards the driver, telling him he had just committed assault.
The driver walked 10 metres back towards his car but then turned back and, facing Dave at very close quarters, said in a fake dramatic voice, “Ow! Ow! Look, you hit me!” He put his hands to his eye socket, feigning injury. He then fell to the road and started writhing in fake pain, suggesting the passenger take photographs. The passenger did so.
The day had taken a farcial turn and it was bizarre to see the driver on the road, pretending he had been hit in the face. He got up. Not quite believing what I had just seen, I asked the driver what he did for a living. Spitting venom again - not seeing the funny side of his antics - he shouted “I’m an actor!”
I said: “Yeh, but what do you really do for a living?” Aggressively, he shouted, “I’m an actor! I’m an actor!”
The driver then went to his car, opened the driver’s door and took out a green, military-style rucksack, bringing it in our direction. He had one hand inside, seemingly about to take something out.
I have no idea what was in the rucksack because at this point we decided to leave.
Dave and myself rode away, informing the driver and the passenger that we would be calling the police and reporting the incident. The driver and the passenger said they would be doing the same, daring us to stay. We declined to do this because of the driver’s aggression and bizarre antics.
We feared the vehicle would chase us but the Nissan did not pass. We rode to Ponteland police station and reported the incident, relating the facts above.
You know what the front cover looks like (I’ve pasted it all over this blog often enough!) but what do you think about the first draft of the back cover?
I designed it last night. I like it a lot but am a bit worried that it doesn’t look anything like the front cover. So, do you like it but you find it a bit jarring because it shares no design elements with the front? Do you like it, either way? Or do you dislike it immensely?
Soon after I designed it I posted it to Flickr and then Twittered it. I got some immediate feedback.
Jamie Fellrath said: “I think the back cover looks terrific. Great attention-grabbing graphics and quotes make this a winner!”
Track_Stand said: “Maybe make Phil’s quote more visible. Switch it with Dr. Ian Walker’s, unless Ian has better name recognition than Phil.”
He also praised the artist, Kathleen King of California. Her brilliant work graces the inside of the book, too.
Now, what do you think of the cover? As always, I’m open to suggestions. I liked some of the early front covers too but intelligent and insightful comments from you lot made me see the error of my ways. I tweaked and tweaked the cover until it became the keeper, and I’m really pleased with it.
If you don’t mind helping me out again, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the back cover.