Posts Tagged ‘cycling’

Le Tour diary II


So, after being awoken by the caravan going past (previous here) Steve and I headed down into town.     At about the spot where we had seen the cyclists heading to the presentation on Thursday there were the tour buses and cars with bikes on them. We got a bit sidetracked looking around the outside of the ‘Village technique’ which was based upon Millennium Square so that when we got to the part of Leeds the Départ was leaving from they were not letting any more people into it as it was so full. We walked along the length of the Headrow and found a place at Eastgate, with the incongruent mix of being opposite the West Yorkshire Playhouse and underneath the imposing, Orwellian building on the hill that houses the Department for Work and Pensions. We were about three or four back from the barrier but them being on the road and us on the pavement meant we had a good view. That deteriorated as the tallest family in Leeds seemed to come and stand in front of us which meant we could see what was happening but didn’t get any decent pictures. So the tour came past and we got to see them but it had a phony war sense to it as the race didn’t start until it had been decided to by royalty. The excitement having passed we headed off back into town and I took photos of some of the interesting use of language including the photo above. The rest of the tour was watched on TV followed by the World Cup.

Sunday we got up early and headed into Leeds to the station. Tickets were bought and then we headed to the platform for the train. As the picture shows it was platform 2b, or not! (Thesp. joke there) P1120927 A train came into the platform,people got off and our train was announced and we got on it. After the time for the train to leave had passed people started getting off it and heading further down the platform. We went out and asked the guard what was happening and another train had come in and would be the earlier train we wanted and the one we had been sat on would now be a later train. So we got on the new train but still left almost quarter of an hour later than timetabled. P1120929 At every station the platforms were packed and it wasn’t long before the train was standing room only. There was a party atmosphere on it though with people were going out for the day, they were going to have fun and they were talking about where they were planning to see the cycling, people were seen to change their mind and go with others. We didn’t.

On arrival at Keighley we got off. We left national railways behind and queued up to get onto the Worth Valley Railway, a steam route run by volunteers. It too left late to allow the people who were in the train from Leeds behind us that had been the one we were sitting on. At least getting on the earlier train meant we got to sit by the window. So the train slowly left the station and we had to listen to the usual guff that these trains were so much better and the carriage was so much better when it was clearly so much slower than a modern train would have been over the track and the seating, whilst not as uncomfortable as boards would be, was certainly not as comfortable as modern trains. P1120935 An experience not helped any by the chap speaking all this guff allowed his kid to bounce up and down on the seat, making the ride more sea-ship like than one would want. Despite the slowness, and despite nearly choking when the engine went in a tunnel, I still felt a certain romance looking out the window and seeing the engine, full-steam-ahead heading over a bridge towards a tunnel on a bend as pictured above. After twenty to thirty minutes we arrived at our destination and got off the train and headed out of the station.

We left the station and, after talking to a Tour guide, found that the caravan was due soon and the race itself in a couple of hours. We got across the road from the station and found a café and had a coffee to fortify ourselves for the day. The caravan came past and I saw again the things that had almost been part of my nightmares, or wakingmares the day before. I did fail in my challenge of taking a photo of the Yorkshire Tea floats as they came past. However, this time it wasn’t my morning befuddledness but chasing after the free pack of tea hurled my way. How did they know. I’m not a proper Englishman.  I don’t understand tea. If my childhood was deprived in any way (clue; it wasn’t) it was that I never leant how to make or appreciate proper tea. I have learnt something of the former from having to care for someone who does appreciate their tea, in fact needs it in the morning to be human. So I was pleased to get a pack of the special THÉ for the Tour. I then discovered that they were giving away a years supply of tea if you tweeted a picture of yourself with yourself and the pack, hence the picture above. I added a few hashtags relating to the fact it was in Haworth, home to the Brontés, etc etc.

After the caravan had passed we looked around and found a place round the corner with a view of the cyclists coming towards us and, whilst I saved it Steve scouted around Haworth to see if there was a better place to be. There wasn’t.  By the time he returned the sun had crossed the yardarm and, our new position just happening to be outside a pub, we sought help for our thirst inside. And, it just had to be Velo, a special brew from local Yorkshire Masham brewery to celebrate the Tour in France, Black Sheep, which Steve had visited the previous year.

After a couple the leaders raced through and people hardly noticed. They were there and gone. I managed to get a photo of them,(above). A few support vehicles came through and then the motorbikes and the peloton was upon us. People were cheering. banners were up, photos were being taken. The carnival mood reached a fever pitch as we witnessed what we had come to see.  Then they were gone.

There is more to come. You too can experience what it was like to be there. Come back in a day and see what it was like.

Well I promised it and here it is. The Tour de France in Yorkshire, in the Bronte village of Haworth to be exact. Experience the Tour de France in Yorkshire, in the Bronte village of Haworth to be exact, through the wonder of Stevecam. It’s almost like you were there:



Le tour diary 1.


I’ve lived in France for seven years, more or less, now. During that time I’ve worked in the UK every summer. Initially at a summer school teaching teenagers from all over Europe or the world general English and last year and this at a university (pictured left) teaching students, about to start a Masters course at the university, how Academic English is different from the general English they learnt before, or what they did to earn their qualification to get to the university. I do that because people in France go away for July or August so you cannot organise classes in those months and now, increasingly working at the local university, courses finish mainly at Easter with a few lasting into or to the end of May and not starting until the middle of September.

Over time I’ve increasingly become interested in cycling. Initially, as a result of working on it for my job in the early part of this century, in track cycling – I saw races at the Manchester Commonwealth Games and at my local track when living in Reading. Over time this moved to interest in road racing, particularly the Tour de France. I even got to the last two and had an interview to manage the administration for Team Sky three or four years ago. In 2012, whilst working in the UK, I followed the race every day, when work had finished obsessively watching the races as the first Englishman and the first English based team went on to win the Tour de France. It wasn’t quite as obsessive, I had a new job in a new environment so hadn’t the time available, but I still followed the race last year and the second victory.

In seven years living in France I had never seen the race in the country that is my home. I had hardly seen the French TV coverage of the race. My knowledge of it came from the UK coverage on ITV4 and the previous coverage on a number of channels. You would think the tour coming to Leeds for this year would make me excited. I would be happy to be getting a chance to see it at last. Not, at all, it seemed wrong. So, it was with an ambivalence about this aspect that I returned to Leeds just over a week ago.

Thursday and work finished and preparation for Friday done so I went shopping to get a few things. Before leaving work I had talked with a few colleagues about the parade of teams which was taking place that evening through the streets of Leeds before they were presented at the Firstdirect arena.  Having finished shopping I noticed my route home was being closed off with barriers. I spied what would be a good spot to see the riders coming up from Millennium Square. So, I hung around in that spot and was joined by a flatmate and we saw the teams on their way from Millennium Square to the Arena. The one pictured are the Cofidis team. Whilst there I was given a ‘Spectator Guide‘ for stages 1 and 2 which led us to talk about the possibility of going to the ‘Grand Depart’ and possibly going out of Leeds to visit somewhere of interest and also take in stage 2.

On Friday further discussions took place and it was decided to go down to the centre of Leeds at 10ish on Saturday morning. Before that happened though I was wakened by a din from people playing popular beat combo music and talking French. But I’d left all that behind. was this some nightmare with my French living come to haunt me in Leeds? No. In seven years living in France I’d never seen the Tour De France and here theP1120919 caravan was going past my window. As well as the music there were vehicles advertising Haribo, ibis hotels, sugary fizzy drinks (pictured) and, best of all I thought, Yorkshire Tea. The last seemed so out of place with the rest but quite cool that it was present, like a very English intervention in the Tour de France.


Everything’s gone green & crazy English


On Friday I went to see some people about work after Christmas and cycled through an area of Strasbourg called Esplanade to get there. I have been along this route several times, particularly when I used to go Fencing but I was either on the tram or did not have my camera. This time I did and I reproduce for you a picture of two tower blocks.



So what? They’re tower blocks, just the ame as in any other city? The black panels facing us are not just any cladding but are solar panels, facing the south. So, the building will not just consume electricity  but generate it too.  Something I think is good and I’m pleased to see the Council making an effort to reduce the environmental impact. They have a plan for this which can be read here.

On a separate note, whilst making my way home on Friday I passed a shop that had closed down. In its window was the following sign:



What is a ‘relooking’ apart from another bastardisation of the English language when swallowed into French. Just the same as using parking as a noun for the car park or talking about trainings for training courses. Grrrrr!

The title comes from one of the first singles from New Order, one of the many fabulous tracks from the band, after they stopped being Joy Division, enjoy:

I want to ride my bicycle


I guess it should have been obvious. Last weekend I wrote about the bout of good weather we had with temperatures over 20°C during the day. It continued into the week and, as the picture shows the beautiful colour of some trees on the way home in the sunshine on Wednesday. This weekend I woke to sleet and the temperatures last night hit negative. You can also see in the picture there is a cycle path on this quiet, backstreet, road and I have just come on a cycle path in a tunnel under the autoroute, that has lights which come on when you enter it. Strasbourg has over 560km of cycle paths and, together with being on the banks of the Rhine and therefore it is very flat, are probably the reasons the city is the number one city in France for the number of people cycling. Iuse a bike as my main form of transport and I have not experienced such fantastic provision for cyclists before. I wrote in the post one before last about having posted French translation of the title of Johnny Cash songs to my friends on facebook in advance of seeing a great tribute to the singer. I have also posted up on facebook the same map you see here of a journey I have made on Friday morning between two different sites where I work, finishing at 9:50 at the site B and have to cycle the 5.2km to site A to start at 10:00. Obviously It is understood that I cannot possibly make this journey in that time. On the map from the park all the way to the autoroute there is a dedicated cycle path separate from the road then there is the tunnel under the autoroute and then another (pictured above) under the rail line. It comes out into a space next to the off-ramp from the autoroute into the centre of the city which is one-way. To get the cyclist up to the next junction and allow the cars to turn both left and right there is the pictured route with the cars able to turn right and left and cyclists able to travel through the junction. What a marvelous piece of civil engineering. When you get to the junction, as a cyclist you are treated as any other item seeking to get through the junction and, because the cars are going left and right, the cyclists can go straight ahead. Through the junction and you are then on a raised, protected route in the middle of the road past a car park and down onto the route past the main shopping centre. For a cyclist it is a dream. This is nothing special but just one example, from a journey I had to make for work for a few weeks. This is why Strasbourg is so cycleable.

A matter of inches


At the weekend the British cycling team  won the the world road race to, as RoadCyclingUK said “cap (a) historic week for British cycling” topping the medal table at the World Championships in Copenhagen with six medals, including two golds. A fantastic performance to win the road race but also to win all the medals. I think not enough congratulations have gone to the British team for their outstanding performance over the week that has seen them as the most feared team at the World Championships, so I wanted to add mine.

As Matt Slater reports on the BBC the victory margin for Mark Cavendish was “a matter of inches” but the team as a whole dominated the race. On a day when some of the people I follow on soical media have ben busy with a speech. Elsewhere on a site celebrating speech, that I was first pointed to this week, there is one which also talks about inches. I’ve not seen the film but it is a good speech with a good delivery by Al Pacino, enjoy:

A nice day for a bike ride


A beautiful sunny day for  the Toussaint public holiday – I’ve never understood why there is a public holiday in a nominally secular country for such an important Catholic day as All Saints, but hey who’s complaining we’ve got a day off work.

JTO went to the centre of Strasbourg to see the laying of wreaths at the memorial to the liberation of Strasbourg in 1944.  After which we got on our bikes and rode along the canal du Rhône au Rhin (wiki) which heads South out of Strasbourg.  The name is actually incorrect as the canal joins the River Ill in Strasbourg just around the corner from where we live but Canal du Rhône au Ill doesn’t sound as impressive.

As you can see from the first picture the trees looked wonderfully Autumnal in their golds and reds and with the leaves that had fallen into the water and the reflection it really was a bright canal.  We passed the Strasbourg hotel pictured, known locally as the Maison D’Arrèt, separated from the canal by Autoroute A35.  On the opposite side leaving Strasbourg is the Zone Artisanale De La Plaine des Bouchers.  It got the name Plaine Des Bouchers as it was where the cattle, destined for slaughter at the butchery in Strasbourg, were left before their final fatal journey.

Roads cross the canal in a number of places and on this bridge there was some graffiti, ‘Elsass forever’.  Elsass is the name of the region, Alsace, in the Alsatian dialect of German and means ‘seated on the Ill‘(wiki) the river that runs through the Alsatian plain before joining the Rhine North of Strasbourg.  So I can understand an Alsatian nationalist writing Elsass toujours, or if an anti-French point was being made Elsass fur immer or dauernd but forever?

Our destination was Fort Uhrich at the Souhtern end of the Strasbourg connurbation.  It was built by the Germans after they took Alsace from the French in 1870 and named by them after the General who captured Strasbourg, Generalleutnant von Werder.(wiki)  When it failed to keep Strasbourg from the hands of the French they renamed it Fort Uhrich after général Uhrich, the person who organised the defence of Strasbourg in 1870.  It was one of fourteen forts built around Strasbourg to add to the defences of the city.(Plan)

On the way back home we passed one of the city’s rowing clubs.  In the Summer there are often classes of young people in the water but, despite being a warm sunny day, there were not any people around to be seen.  There was also no-one using the new climbing wall which was intalled only this Summer.

Seperated from the rowing and climing club by the railway to Germany is the new Mosque pictured here, or to give it its full title, Mosquée du Heyritz.  When I first moved to Strasbourg construction on the site had stopped at the concrete shell of the building until May 2009 when construction started again as I wrote here.  In the last year there has been considerable work to the site.  I am still no further forward in learning what will happen to the existing Mosque on the industrial estate in the Plaine des Bouchers as I wrote almost a year ago here.

The last photo is of the former rowing club.  When I moved to Strasbourg this site was then a rowing club and I regularly saw people taking boats out onto the river from here.  Mind you it is on one of the main routes into Strasbourg and you had to cross the road to get to the river so I was not surprised when I stopped seeing people carrying boats, then saw it demolished and these flats built in its place.  With a view onto River Ill some o the higher up flats would be a great place to live – ah if only my lottery ticket had won on Saturday.

At the Velhop


First came the Facebook page which I was informed of and liked about a month ago.  Then came notice that the Strasbourg stand at the Foire Europeanee (See yesterday) would feature the Velhop.  So, whilst there I hastened along to the stand and had myself pictured there in my rather fetching new jacket and shoes.  THEN came the appearance at the beginning of this week of properties around Strasbourg saying they would be Velhop shops and yesterday came the adverts on the trams saying the Velhop is coming.  As an awareness raising campaign it has been building impressively from social media through to on-street advertising.  I am looking forward to finding out the details of the new city-bike scheme for Strasbourg.  In 1996 when I had some influence over decisions on transport in a large town in the south of England I went to a European Car Free Cities conference in Copenhagen and saw in operation the city-bike scheme there and was intent on setting one up in the relevant town.  History intervened and I was not able to introduce the scheme.  I am surprised at the amount of time it has taken for the scheme to spread to other cities, probably the introduction of such a scheme in Paris by Bertrand Delanoe is what gave the idea momentum.  Strasbourg is the city in France with the highest level of cycling and has been designated the most cycle friendly.  Certainly being flat helps enormously as does the sheer number of on street and separate cycling facilities.  I will be watching interestedly to see how this scheme develops, though as someone with their own bike at home that they use regularly around the cycle-lanes of Strasbourg I don’t expect to be using them very soon.  I am also looking forward to colleagues mentioning the scheme as a judge of it hitting public awareness.

The title for this post is, of course, a corruption, a jokey play, on the title of the song by Danny and the Juniors, ‘At the Hop’ which can be seen below.  Aren’t the 1950’s suits and dance just great.

The song is sung  on the soundtrack of the film Woodstock by Sha-Na-Na(wiki) whose version of the song from the film of Woodstock is posted afterwards.  The two films really are very different, the clothes are very different and the dances are very different.



No Sir Cliff Richard references but Sir Chris Hoy.  Winner last night of his 10th world cycling title.  Only Arnaud Tournant of France who won 14 has won more titles and Sir Chris reckons he can get closer to the Frenchman before the end of the Track Cycling World Championships in Copenhagen on Sunday.  Here it is, enjoy:

UPDATE:(27/03/10) Today its the turn of the women with Victoria Pendleton winning gold in the sprint and Lizzie Armitstead winning silver in the five discipline omnium which has not featured in the World Championships before but will feature in the Olympics in 2012.  Victoria has become the new Hovis girl and here she is talking about it:

UPDATE:(29/03/08) On the final day team pursuit rider, Tom Clancy, won an individual victory in the men’s omnium and Victoria Pendleton won silver in the women’s keirin in controversial circumstances.  The GB team finished second overall behind the Australian team but won a medal in most of the events which will be in the Olympics in 2012.

Pining for the pork……


…a line from a song on the Echo and the Bunnymen album Pocupine.  Used because Pork is something done very well in Alsace and I would normally have something of the Pork persuasion on a weekly basis at home and have only had it once in the month since I left.

It’s also a word play on the swine flu.  I woke on Friday with a sore throat which felt like I had been gargling razor-blades.  During the day I felt progressively worse so it was with relief I was able to get out after work and get some ‘Max Strength’ Lem-Sip.  So the weekend has been spent taking things easy and letting my body fight the infection.  I did ache a bit yesterday but I think it’s just a cold caught from one of the many nationals on our site.  My inactivity has also partly beec caused by St Swithin.  After it rained on his day, 15th July, we’ve been getting very wet with rain on a regular basis most days.  The students do not like it at all.  Do they not realise that summers are so much better than they were in the 70’s?

What lazing around the site has allowed me to do is keep up with the cricket and what a wonderful match this has been with things going one way and then the other.  My jury is still out on whether not enforcing the follow-on was the right idea.  I’m also following the Tour de France, something I have been progressively more interested in and frustrated that the last two years – despite living in France the rest of the time – I’ve been out of the country for it.  What a year for the British riders?  With Mark Cavendish in hot contention for the Green jersey until the bizarre decision yesterday but still with a chance of winning the most stages by a Brit if he wins the last race, and Bradley Wiggins in third position tonight and in with a good shout of the yellow jersey.  Here for no other reason than it was on the radio whilst writing this is Dave Edmunds, with Nick Lowe and Elvis Costello, doing the sublime ‘Girls Talk’:

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