I can count the number of times it’s happened on one hand. But despite the rarity, I always know when it’s about to happen. But by then it’s usually too late: there’s nothing that can be done. The signal is that the backs of my knees get extra sweaty. Then it becomes a war of attrition: “will I be able to make it to the next petrol station to load up on sugar and carbs or am I just going to cruise into a layby and try desperately to resist the overpowering urge to lie down and sleep?” That’s why, when it happens to the pros they look so pained: there’s nowhere to hide. They’ve just got to keep going; toughing it out pedalling squares.

The first time it happened I was on a three-day mega ride from Portsmouth to Manchester. My route went via Bath and an indeterminate stop between Bath and Manchester – Ludlow Youth Hostel as it turned out. I was on the last “stage” – I’d long since finished my food and had been running on fumes for the last 20 miles, but smooth tarmac and a following wind had pushed me on. I was in sight of the end, less than 10 miles to go, when I found I could barely make it over a pimple of a hill by Jodrell Bank. For some reason my legs just wouldn’t go round. From cruising along at a steady 16 – 17 mph, I now had to stop and rest. I slept in a bus stop for 15 minutes, too tired to care if anyone stole my bike (in fact someone had stolen my bike the evening before the ride, but that’s another story). After I woke up, I scrumped a cooking apple from an overhanging tree and ate half of it. It’s sharpness revived me slightly and I rolled down the road where I found a corner shop. My remaining change bought me a can of 7Up and a couple of Mars bars. I covered the remaining miles with a sugar rush verging on nausea, but I made it. I’m not sure if it was the sugar or the shop keeper’s surprise at the distance I’d covered (I may have omitted to tell him I’d taken three days to cover the distance) that spurred me on.

The ultimate "anti-bonk" juice

The ultimate “anti-bonk” juice

It seems that I hit the wall with the Cyclostyle blog last summer. I peaked at the Tour de France win and managed to coast through the medal haul at the Olympics. Since then I’ve metaphorically been snoozing in a skanky bus stop trying to regain the spark to write. Well, the sun’s shining and it time to start turning the pedals again. Hopefully I’ll have avoided succumbing to the dreaded “blog fade”.


There’s been plenty of talk of how things are going to change in the world of cycling in Britain following recent successes. I’d like to see a Mod revival inspired by Bradley Wiggins. Whether he likes it or not, the press have got him pigeon-holed – when you can get Wiggins sideburns in the Mirror the die has been cast. Plus there’s going to come a time when Paul Weller needs to handsling him into the role of Modfather.

Weller, Smith and Wiggins - the kings of cool ©Paul Smith/www.paulsmith.co.uk

Weller, Smith and Wiggins – the kings of cool ©Paul Smith/www.paulsmith.co.uk

Back in the day he might have been seen chilling in a pair of Adidas Samba’s or a Fred Perry polo shirt, but now they’re less in evidence as he’s only ever in team lycra or team casuals. Wiggins is known to have many of the Mod accessories – vintage scooter, extensive guitar collection and ear for Weller’s tunes.

Wiggo mod style by Pete McKee via modculture.co.uk

Wiggo mod style by Pete McKee via modculture.co.uk

And it there on the bike too. I’ve yet to see the forks of his Pinarello festooned with wing mirrors or a racoon’s tail swinging his saddle, but the RAF roundel is certainly getting plenty of use. It’s there on his helmet, his frame and the sides of his jersey.

A two wheeled peleton of a different type

A two wheeled peleton of a different type

Wiggo's frame decals

Wiggo’s frame decals

Helmet roundel

Helmet roundel

Could Bradley Wiggins’s sideburns mark the start of a mod-style cycling revival? Mod style has got plenty going for it; winkle pickers, slim suits, Ben Sherman shirts, Fred Perry polo tops, bomber jackets, John Smedley knitwear and pork pie hats. All of it works for the style-conscious cyclist – except for the ex-US Army fishtail parkas getting caught in your rear spokes. Perhaps that’s why Bradley prefers riding a rear disc wheel?

Mod style cycling jersey via miltag.cc

Mod style cycling jersey via miltag.cc

The thing about the Mod’s is that they were made even cooler because there was tension with the Rockers. I can’t somehow see Froome or Nibali astride a Triumph Bonneville, wearing greasy jeans and the collar turned up on a studded leather jacket.

How to combine yellow, the Union Jack and a Mod roundel via cyclo.co.uk

How to combine yellow, the Union Jack and a Mod roundel via cyclo.co.uk

Richard Moore’s book “Heroes, Villains and Velodromes” is a pretty accurate summary of the first day of Olympic track cycling activity. Moore knows his cycling; anyone who manages to weedle an entire book’s worth of copy (“In Search of Robert Millar”) out of the notoriously illusive Robert Millar is worth a read. I always felt he could have done something less formulaic with Hoy’s ascent and dominance of the sprint discipline. Well another chapter needs to be added following last night’s riding and the central character should be the UCI rulebook.

"Heroes, Villains and Velodromes" - in need of a new chapter

“Heroes, Villains and Velodromes” – in need of a new chapter

Firstly the ruling on change overs prevented Pendleton and Varnish getting in the medals and denied the Chinese pair a gold by about a tyre width. But then the rules worked in favour of newly discovered GB sprint team lead out man, Philip Hindes. In a moment of plain (albeit German accented) speaking, he suggested that his poor start resulted in the cycling equivalent of a professional foul. By falling off he forced the race to be restarted. At the second attempt the GB trio smashed the world record they’d set in the previous round. Their laps of honour to Thin Lizzie’s “The Boys are Back in Town” just about drowned out the sound of the GB PR machine furiously papering over the cracks. Apparently what Hindes said was “lost in translation” and he’s story was straightened out by the press conference: it was the start gate’s fault. We’ve had “Watergate”, “Camillagate” and “Cherigate” and now, finally we have “Gategate”. Of course others are crying foul, “it’s not in the sporting ethos of the Games” but it’s hard to feel sympathy for the Aussies. The one person to feel sorry for in this episode is Pendleton’s lead out rider, Jess Varnish, who will have to wait another four years for a chance at a medal.

Philip Hindes and the "Gategate" incident

Philip Hindes and the “Gategate” incident

Wiggins on the cover of Metro. Thought that'd be it for this year...

Wiggins on the cover of Metro. Thought that’d be it for this year…

...but no, Pendleton and Varnish get their turn today

…but no, Pendleton and Varnish get their turn today

At the Tour podium and on those daft time trial thrones we’ve not just had one, but two Brits.You’ve got to spare a thought for Chris Froome though. You’d have been forgiven for thinking Team GB only medalled (can you believe it’s now a verb?!) once in the men’s time trial he got so little covered. Wiggo’s subtle put down “there’s only one colour that matters” hints that it may not be happy families among the Sky contingent of Team GB.

Wiggins sitting on a throne left over from Jordan and Peter Andre's wedding ceremony

Wiggins sitting on a throne left over from Jordan and Peter Andre’s wedding ceremony

Is Froome just another Andy Murray; a great talent competing at the same time as a few other, greater talents? Well he’d say otherwise; his glances back at Wiggins in the Pyrenees Tour stages suggested he felt he could push harder. In subsequent interviews struggled to contain his aspirations as a future GC contender and challenger to Wiggins. But cycling’s a team game and other Tour winners didn’t make the podium without some heroic, but unsung efforts by their team mates. Froome’s clearly forgotten to watch “Stars and Watercarriers” on YouTube for his lesson in self- sacrifice.

At the Tour and Olympic time trials Wiggins has stamped his authority; there’s no hiding when you’re against the clock – “contre le montre” as the French elegantly say. It echoes the rivalry between time trial king and five times Tour winner Jaques Anquetil and fellow countryman, “the eternal second” Raymond Poulidor. Perhaps Froome will become the Poulidor to Wiggin’s Anquetil? Well Poulidor always had the hearts of the French public during his amazing 17 year professional career. Judging by the number of people sporting Wiggo sideburns, I’d say that Froome’s got some work to do to knock Wiggins off that pedestal.

"Buy your Wiggo look here!" Sideburns for sale on the Box Hill Olympic road race circuit

“Buy your Wiggo look here!” Sideburns for sale on the Box Hill Olympic road race circuit

Remember where you heard it first; Cyclostyle. Among the many amazing sights at this year’s Olympic Opening Ceremony – set your alarm for 20.12 GMT – will be cycling angels. Hopefully this is a reference to the heavenly status of the GB elite cycling team or some form of signal for divine intervention to assist our riders. Hopefully it’s not Danny Boyle’s reference to the number of cyclists involved in accidents on the capital’s roads.

cycling angels

cycling angels

This week’s ES magazine concentrates, understandably, on the elite of the GB Olympics team. Who’d have expected that of the 50 pages, 12 were either about cyclists, or were product endorsements by cyclists. The magazine features 29 athletes, of which 7 are GB cyclists –  I’ve cheekily included the Brownlee brothers, who as triathletes are 1/3 cyclists. Also, breaking out of the sporting bubble and into the real world, the “My London” back page is penned by Mark Cavendish.

ES goes cycling crazy

ES goes cycling crazy

Right, I’m off to camp on the side of Box Hill and watch some medals being won!

“C’est la vie say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell” – Chuck Berry

Chris Boardman was commentating at last Sunday’s final Tour stage. He was speculating about what was going to change for cycling in Britain following the dominance of British cyclists in the Tour. It’s often the way, folks forget how far they’ve climbed; they’re just looking at the next rung up. Well if anyone should know about the climb it’s Boardman. Many, including Peter Keen (GB Performance Director) saw his 1992 Olympic gold medal in the individual pursuit (a discipline that Wiggins would go on to dominate) as the starting point for the GB performance at this year’s Tour.

10 years after Boardman and his superbike were claiming gold in Barcelona, I saw Wiggins ride at the Herne Hill Velodrome Good Friday meeting. At the time, David Millar’s no-show was the big story. He’d ridden the Tour, worn the yellow jersey and was to go onto win the world championships; before it imploded (temporarily) with his doping ban. Although folks were disappointed Millar wasn’t there, the announcer, the indomitable Eurosport commentator David Duffield was talking up a lanky lad called Bradley Wiggins riding for French team Francaise des Jeux. Wiggins was immense; the fluidity and speed had the crowds banging on the advertising hoardings, roaring him to an effortless win. But he was still just a pursuit rider – a finely honed specialist going round in circles. Certainly not a stage racer, never mind a contender for the General Classification.

Wiggins might have been in good shape but Herne Hill certainly wasn’t. Back then, it’s future was unsure (remember this was at the height of the housing boom, when a chunk of prime London real estate would have been bonus for someone) and sponsors were hard to find. This was still underground, enthusiasts-only territory. Track cycling’s changed now; I feel like someone who witnessed the Glastonbury Festival at the end of the 70’s – before it got big and commercial

Fast forward another 10 years and the Olympics games road race will be riding up Box Hill. I used to cycle up Box Hill in the mid 80’s on a lightweight vintage Claude Butler (on permanent loan from an uncle) to gaze at the bikes in Dauphin Sport, a tiny bike shop at the top. I’d regularly be the only cyclist on the road. And now they’ve repaved the zig zag to allow the elite riders to roll over it. Plus ca change.

You’ve just ridden your heart out over 3000km to stand atop the podium wearing the maillot jaune and helped to realise the dreams of British cycling fans (note this is different to British Cycling fans). You’ve done all that, what is the first thing you say to the massed crowds on the Champs Elysee? Obviously you need to crack a few gags. I’m not sure how French TV subtitlers coped with Wiggins’s opener “and now we’re going to draw the raffle prizes” but it was certainly unexpected. At the end he faced the Brits and said “don’t drink too much and have a safe journey home”. I half hoped he’d say “…and would the owner of the blue Ford Escort parked in front of the fire exit, please move their vehicle”. If he ever decides to give up the cycling lark, then there’s a career change to become a northern club compere.

Speaking of nightclubs, Bernard “the enforcer” Hinault did another good day’s work keeping the podium clear of riff raff. He’s got some form here, clearing the podium of in intruder in 2009. Even in his racing days he wasn’t afraid to mix it up with some awkward punters. This is a man so hard he can lead a horse to water and make it drink (to steal a Chuck Norris joke).

Think you're getting a moment with Brad? Wrong!

Think you’re coming up here? Wrong!

Hinault: never one to hide his frustration via stevetilford.com

Hinault: never one to hide his frustration via stevetilford.com

For a self-confessed muso like Wiggins, listening to Leslie Garrett’s soprano of God Save the Queen must have been like to torture scene the Pink Panther – with the metal glove scraping down the blackboard.

Lesley Garrett punishes the crowds while Nabili regrets forgetting his ear defenders via zimbo.com

Lesley Garrett punishes the crowds while Nabili regrets forgetting his ear defenders via zimbo.com

Apparently the world of cycling is going to change in the UK following Brad’s win. Will London cab firm Addison Lee’s reverse their PR gaffe by sponsoring a London based pro cycling team comprised entirely of ex-messengers? Perhaps white van drivers will sport yellow flags fluttering from their vehicles and will give way to anyone on a bike [not just girls in short skirts]. Children will no longer aspire to be Wayne Rooney or Ronaldo, but instead they’ll be arguing “I’ll be Cav and you can be Wiggo and you [pointing at the grumpy kid who nobody likes] can be Froomy” as they re-enact the Champs Elysee in their street. Let’s wait and see.