Tour de Yorkshire 2016 – Stage 3

Having decided to have a day in front of the TV to watch Stage 2 (that worked out well didn’t it?) I was all set to watch Stage 3 of the Tour de Yorkshire from Sutton Bank.

Having checked the weather forecast the night before it looked to be dry but as I picked up Farny in the car the heavens opened.  Great.  The rain showed no sign of easing up so we though ‘sod it’ and set off regardless.

The conditions were pretty horrific and 7 miles in they finally got the better of us.  As we turned left to Ainderby Quernhow Farny’s bike slid from under him and he skidded along the road.  As I was following pretty close behind I grabbed my breaks no no avail and ran into the back of him and ended up on the floor.

After the initial shock thankfully I was ok but Farny had ripped his shorts and jacket and got some pretty bad road rash.  We decided to call it a day as his bike wasn’t selecting all gears and phoned the Mrs up to collect us.

So it was decided that after a quick shower we would head to Northallerton and watch from there then have some recovery ales and big up our crash.

The last 20 seconds or so show a little bit of the damage to ferny’s bike and clothes!

Only managed to take a few pics:

Break

The break passed through with a  2 minute gap over the peloton.

Peloton

NFTO were busy on the front, closely followed by Lotto Jumbo.

So with that the Tour de Yorkshire was over.  We went to the pub and enjoyed a few beers then I watched the highlights back.  Sutton Bank looked incredible and i was gutted that we didn’t make it there but hopefully next year we’ll get to watch the riders up another iconic Yorkshire climb.

And finally if you don’t like gore please don’t scroll down – this is a pic of Farny’s road rash!

Road Rash

Tour de Yorkshire 2016 – Stage 1

It is that time of the cycling calendar, the best race in the UK graces our fine (pothole ridden) roads and we get to watch our cycling heroes race within a bike ride from our homes.  I love the Tour de Yorkshire!

The first stage of 2016 was from Beverley to Settle, 185km long and would go though Tadcaster meaning from York there was plenty of opportunity to spectate nearby.  I decided upon Cawood – a lovely village just outside of Selby and only 10 miles to cycle.

I have been checking the weather forecast religiously all week but unfortunately the promises of 4ºC, wind and rain hadn’t altered as Friday loomed so on with the full winter kit and off I went.

My mate Farny joined me as we set off from York.  We made good time but the headwind made it tough going, for me anyway.  As we made our way from Riccall to Cawood the wind was immense.  It just didn’t let up.  The open landscape let the wind continually batter us which made it even more impressive when watching the Pro’s travelling along the same roads doing about 25mph to our 13mph!

Riding into Cawood me and Farny found a pub with a decent beer garden overlooking the bridge in the village.  It would provide a good place to watch from.  With beers in hand we waited.

Beer

First up came the rain.  It poured down.  Then came the break.  They had 4 minutes on the peloton which was great going considering they had gained that margin in a mighty headwind.

The Break

Forgive my ignorance but I have no idea who was in the break.  As I write I have still not watched the stage back.  Then came the main group (see header photo).  As always is the case when the weather is bad it’s hard to pick out individual riders but I managed to spot Pete Kennough driving Sky on at the front but it was;t until I got home and checked my photos that I spotted a few other British riders.

Russ Downing

I think this one is Russ Downing due to the beard but I may be wrong!

Sir Brad

I’m almost certain this is Sir Brad.  You can spot the black bike and the familiar nose underneath that aero helmet to keep the rain out.  It was a shame that he abandoned today without completing the stage but he says he didn’t want to risk a crash with Rio coming up.  If that was the case surely he shouldn’t have entered but then again he’ll be under massive pressure to take the start as his name alone adds kudos to the race.

And that was that.  Cold legs and body went back onto the bike and enjoyed a short tailwind before hitting a headwind for the last 7 miles back to York.  It was the hardest 30 mile ride I have ever done so I doth my cap to the riders today who completed the 115 miles to Settle.

Not going to Stage 2 but will be on Sutton Bank for Stage 3.  See you there!

Motivation, or the correct motivation…

This last week, since my 50 mile ride, I have found cycling motivation pretty hard to come by.  I’m not sure if this is due to spending every minute thinking about moving house or preparing to move house but it may well be – moving is stressful.

This week has been packing boxes, moving boxes, thinking about wallpaper, looking at wallpaper, looking at van hire, looking at paint, planning how I’m moving stuff then along cam the bank holiday weekend and with it two planned drinking  events with one not so planned.

The resultant drinking and moving stuff meant 6 miles cycled, a pathetic total, and now the bikes have to be packed for moving.  It might be two weeks before I get out again.  I have failed badly.  Once the move is done I really need to get the miles in.

Underdressed for Spring ends in disaster!

As I was shopping yesterday morning the sun was shining and I was looking forward to my first 50 mile ride of the year.  It was going to be a little bit of a test, 2,000ft of climbing over a distance I hadn’t tackled since the Prudential Ride 100 back in August 2015 but I was confident after doing 37 miles last Sunday with no issues.

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As I set off it was a little chilly but still pretty warm but 10 miles in it was getting cold.  I had also forgot my mini pump so when the rain started a further 2 miles down the road I was beginning to think about abandoning but seen as though that would be failure I plodded on, praying to the puncture Gods that I would not get one.

Everything was going swimmingly up to the climb.  It was a good test, 0.8 miles (1.3km) at an average of 9% which I slowly chugged up.  The HR data from my Garmin Vivosmart HR went mental, think it was because of my wrist being sweaty which was a pain but apart from that I was happy.

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It was cold up there, and my legs felt it.  I was about 30 miles in at this point and the dreaded thigh cramps started.  I couldn’t put any power down or my legs would fully cramp.  This was not good.  I struggled on for another 10 miles and ended up in Stamford Bridge where I had a nice coffee and tried to warm up.  The last 10 miles were hell.  I eventually arrived home and dived straight into the shower to warm my poor legs up.

Note to self (and others) – if you are going on a long ride and it’s cold and you are out of shape ALWAYS overdress, never underdress!

Anyway, lesson learned, 52 miles under stress in the legs so all things considered I’m happy with that.  I’m also happy with my average speed being 15.2mph with that climbing and the fact I couldn’t push at all in the final 20.  Think my fitness is alright for March and now once my house move is done I can take advantage of living close to the Yorkshire Dales and get even fitter for Ride 100 2016.

Oh, and always pack your mini pump.

Karanka, Boro, Cycling, Facebook

About 5 years ago I used to run the biggest Boro Facebook fan page on the site, even bigger than the clubs own page. Then they took it from me, accidentally by all accounts!! The club were very good with me after this and I do not hold a grudge but it was the start of my love dwindling.  The club were kind enough to give me free tickets for a season in way of recompense but I didn’t really take them up on them apart from a few games. It was the beginning of the end… of me going to matches religiously anyway. 

You never stop supporting your club, I’ve got the crest tattooed on my leg for fucks sake (all chavvy like), but my love of the match day experience definitely way gone. I’ve been to a few games since but I’m officially an armchair fan now.  Quite a turnaround from being a season ticket holder and running a website that provided live coverage of games that many fans all over the world relied on.

I then discovered cycling.  It’s so far away from football and that’s why I love it.  Football is easy to have a basic understanding of whereas cycling needs a certain degree of knowledge to appreciate its intricacies.  Why am I banging on about cycling? The reason being is I’m more gutted that Mark Cavendish might not get into the Rio squad than I am with tonight’s goings on at Boro.

Shit has got real at Boro.  The press are reporting arguments, a meeting tomorrow and maybe the end for Karanka.  I slipped tonight into my Boro reporting self of old and started tweeting to see what the fuck was going on.  Phone battery went from 100% to 30% in a couple of hours.  Then it was on Sky Sports News, I started getting texts taking the piss but then, as I got home from the pub, it struck me.  If Karanka was to leave I wouldn’t be that arsed.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a Karanka fan.  We are in second place in the league and if we pull our recent form around we’ll get promoted but to me it sounds like kids squabbling in a playground.  Arguments with players, players not playing, terrible results.  It’s all a bit daft.  Can’t the players and manager see that this carry on is not only going to cost promotion but will cost Steve Gibson millions of pounds?  Something will give and unfortunately nowadays it’s usually the manager.  Karanka, if reports are true, has started this process himself.  Gibbo won’t tolerate this kind of shit for much longer.

Our situation is typical of football.  Big egos banging heads together with no real cost to themselves but upsetting those who make football what it is – the fans.  Karanka, Ayala, Downing or whoever won’t be too fussed come Monday, they won’t have to do a 9-5 job for minimum wage, they could take a few years off and still not have to worry about having to pay the Council Tax.  Not like the poor fuckers who spend their wages on a season ticket to see the biggest chance of promotion spunked because the team didn’t want it enough.  

Cycling is a selfless sport, domestiques spend their careers flogging themselves so others can claim victory and never moan.  They work for the bigger picture, the team, winning.  The Boro team / staff could learn a few things from cycling.

Anyway, wonder who’s gonna win Paris-Nice? 😉

As always, UTB, and up Dimension Data.

Fasted Riding Struggle

Went for a ride yesterday before work and crucially before breakfast and what a struggle it was.

It’s a route that I have done many times before and done a few times without having eaten but never early in the morning (if you can call 8:30am early!) and never struggled like I did yesterday.  I don’t know what the problem was.  Maybe that I had only one coffee?

The BBC had a programme a month or so ago that showed using a small test group that men burn fat more effectively during the day when fasted exercise has been undertaken in the morning.  That’s all well and good but bonking from mile 1 isn’t fun!

Possibly my lack of road miles these last few weeks and the miles I have done have been at a slower average speed than usual has taken it’s toll and I’m losing fitness.  Or it could be that last week I was on holiday and drank beer every day… It is probably the last one!

Anyway I’ll try extra hard this weekend to get some miles in.  Maybe a bit of mountain biking tomorrow and a road ride on Sunday.  Hopefully some hills if my riding buddy fancies them.

Keep on keeping on!

Maria Sharapova Gets Popped And I Smell Bullshit

Please see update at bottom of the post…

The biggest earning female tennis star of the last ten years, Maria Sharapova, yesterday confessed to us all in a well choreographed press conference that she had tested positive for the banned substance Meldonium.

Meldonium has only been on the WADA banned list since 1 January 2016 and Sharapova neglected to open an email from WADA advising her of this so kept of taking the medication she was given by a family doctor to reduce the risk of diabetes.  She had been taking the drug for the last 10 years.

Lets have a little look as to why the above smells of bullshit…

Now I think (and I may well be wrong) it is feasible that Sharapova may have been taking this for 10 years to enhance their performance legally and has fallen foul of the new WADA code as her and her team were very inept.  I am not stating she has done this, I am trying to show the other, more sceptical, side of the argument.  Firstly though remember that Meldonium was perfectly legal prior to 1 January 2016 and she was able quite legally to take it.  Whether she should have morally is another argument.  Please read below and make your own mind up:

Background

Maria moved to the United States when she was around 7-8 years old and has lived in the US ever since.  Meldonium isn’t licensed in the United States for the treatment of anything.  That means a family doctor in the US would not prescribe it.

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Meldonium is a drug that is used to treat angina, myocardial infarction and chronic heart failure.  Having done a little research there isn’t much out there on the internet that advises it is used in the treatment of diabetes or reducing the risk of diabetes.

Jake Shelley in his blog on what Meldonium is and does describes excellently what the effects of the drug are for a fit and well person taking it for performance enhancing benefits:

  • Decreased levels of lactate and urea in blood
  • Improved economy of glycogen: level of glycogen increased in the cells during the long-lasting exercise
  • Increased endurance properties and aerobic capabilities of athletes
  • Improved functional parameters of heart activity
  • Increased physical work capabilities
  • Increased rate of recovery after maximal and sub-maximal loads
  • Activates CNS functions and protects against stress

And he also goes on to make the point that “Some of the above effects published in the review article were reported from this study. Unfortunately, quite a lot of the research into this topic is only published in Russian”.  Quite interesting when recently some 17% of tested Russian athletes had this in their system prior to WADA banning the drug.

IMG_6572

An ARD doping documentary aired two days ago featured news that a high number of Russian athletes were testing positive for Meldomium in 2015, 1 in 5 to be exact.  Now they can’t all have heart failure or be trying to prevent diabetes.  It would appear Russian athletes have been taking this stuff for some time for reasons other than the treatment of medical conditions.

One final point worth making is Sharapova claims to have taken the drug for 10 years.  This would put the date that she first took Meldonium at around 2005/6.

IMG_6574

Most clinical trials of the drug didn’t start until 2008.  She would have been pretty hard pressed to get any doctor to prescribe it to her prior to this, Russian or otherwise.  And remember it’s STILL NOT LICENSED in the US.

Career

Sharapova rose to No 1 in the world in 2005.  In 2006 she enjoyed more success but in 2007 fell out of the top 5 struggling with injury after injury.  A drug that could help you train harder and recover quicker would have been helpful with repeat injuries.  Even if Maria was taking it to stop diabetes the side effects described would have been an unfair advantage over her competitors.

She returned back to No 1 in 2012 following more injuries and a shoulder operation.  Even a third shoulder injury in 2013 didn’t stop her coming back in 2014 to win the French Open and then going on to the Australian Open final in 2015 without dropping a set.  Pretty impressive when she has been dogged with injury all her career.

Conclusion

Sharapova is an immensely gifted tennis player but by her own admission she has been taking a performance enhancing drug, legally until 1 January 2016, for the majority of her professional tennis career.

She claims this is for the treatment of potential diabetes.  There are many drugs out there designed for that purpose more so than Meldonium.  Why not take them?  A US family doctor would not prescribe her Meldonium.

She claims she didn’t open the WADA email.  She would have had emails 18 months before as the drug was put on the WADA watch list.  The ITF would have emailed her.  WADA have a little leaflet for athletes to tell them what’s banned and whats not.  The Australian Open have a players meeting before the tournament to discuss this stuff.  She pays out lots of money to a manager, coach, nutritionalist and doctor all who’s responsibility it is to keep her out of harms way.  None of them knew?

IMG_6573

When you look at the full picture the one that Sharapova paints seems poor.  Something that your child would do at nursery – certainly not a Picasso.  Because you love your child you think it’s the best picture ever though.  That’s what Team Sharapova are counting on.  Her fans love her and will accept every word.

I think it’s pretty immoral but perfectly legal to take Meldonium prior to 2016 for whatever reason.  To be honest if you have heart failure you aren’t going to be threatening the No 1 spot any time soon.

She continued to take it beyond January 2016 and I do not believe for one minute that no one in her team or Sharapova herself knew it wasn’t banned.  But it is a possibility and we will have to take her word for it.

I predict a 6 month ban and she’ll be back playing before the end of the year.  Just in time for the 2017 Australian Open in fact.  That’ll be a new story in itself.  Soon after that she’ll retire having won lots and lots of money and no one will remember this little blip in an otherwise fantastic, legal drug aided, career.

I leave you with two final thoughts:

IMG_6575

  

9/3/2016 Update – Sharapova stated that magnesium deficiency and a family history of diabetes lead to her taking the drug. Recently Channel 4 News asked the drug manufacturer if the drug was effective in treating these issues. They advised that their drug has no effect on these medical complaints.

(Feminism gone wrong?) Sometimes on Twitter it’s worth making a point…

And sometimes you realise after one reply a person you following isn’t worth it.

  
  
Is disagreed that this advice posted on a local authority website was worthy of a ‘Double sigh’. 

  
As you can see from my reply to Cycling Moose I wasn’t been provocative, I though I was been level headed, but alas I did not expect a reply saying I had a ‘problem’.

A weird reply, I tried to diffuse it, but was sarcastically quoted to her followers. I wondered why this was until this further quote from her account:

  
Seems it was due to my gender. I’m a man so obviously can’t disagree (however slightly) with a woman without it being an issue.

God bless feminism.

Could anyone enlighten me why the advice given by the local authority was so ‘Double sigh’? I’d love to know.

Written by the most sexist cyclist on Twitter, it would appear.
 

Sunderland AFC and Adam Johnson

Today is the first game that Sunderland AFC will have played since their former winger, Adam Johnson, was convicted of grooming and sexual activity with a girl of 15 years.  Since then a number of allegations have been made of the club themselves regarding their handling of the whole episode, from the initial suspension right up to today’s date.

JS84134073

It would appear that the Chief Executive Officer of SAFC, Margaret Byrne, knew of the serious allegations made about Adam Johnson from as early as 2 March 2015.  This statement has come from Durham Police themselves, advising that they told Byrne that Johnson has messaged, kissed, met and engaged in sexual activity with the girl.

Sunderland upon hearing of the above suspended Johnson on 2 March 2015.  This was the MINIMUM action that the club needed to take but the twist comes that only 16 days later following  meeting with the Professional Footballers Association he was reinstated back to first team action on 18 March 2015.

Johnson was then charged with four offences on 23 April 2015.  Grooming and three counts of sexual activity with a child.  A short statement from Sunderland was issued in light of this:

‘Following yesterday’s statement from Durham Constabulary, the club recognises that the formal legal process must take its course and whilst our position remains unchanged, we will keep the matter under review.

‘The club will not be making any further comment.’ 

For someone to be charged the Crown Prosecution Service needs to satisfy itself that there is a high probability that a conviction will be secured.  Byrne would have been aware of this and had also seen evidence from the police that they had submitted to the CPS but still thought it in the best interests of the club to continue to allow Johnson to represent them.

On 9 February 2016 the trail began and  on 10 February 2016 Johnson admitted to grooming and one count of sexual touching with a child.  It took Sunderland until the following day to terminate the players contract.

What were Sunderland thinking?

SAFC started off on 2 March 2015 quite well having suspended Johnson in light of his arrest.  Remember that Byrne, even at this early stage knew of the severity of the charges.  It could be argued that knowing what she knew they would have had grounds at that point to sack Johnson.

Then came the PFA meeting which saw Johnson’s suspension being removed and him joining the first team.  A few points:

  • What message did this send to the victim?
  • Letting Johnson play would have sent a message to the fans that in their opinion Johnson wasn’t guilty.  This in itself may have led to Sunderland fans terrace chants of “Adam Johnson, he shags who he wants” – again, the club allowed this to happen by returning Johnson to the first team.  How would such chants make the victim feel?

  • Sunderland have form for letting players continue to play whilst being arrested, under investigation and charged for sexual offences.  Previously Titus Bramble was allowed to train and play for the first team whilst he waited to go to trail on a charge of sexual assault. Bramble was found not guilty – maybe this is a factor is why SAFC allowed Johnson to continue.
  • What compelling argument did the PFA have to override the knowledge that Byrne held that would compel SAFC to risk damaging their name in the event that Johnson was found guilty?
  • What safeguarding methods were employed to prevent the hundreds, if not thousands of young female supporters having access to the player?

Johnson being allowed to play continued on even when he was charged with the offences with barely a whisper coming from the club.  At this point again there would have been sufficient ground to terminate his contract.  Not only did they not sack him, they didn’t even reinstate the suspension.

On the second day of the trail Johnson admitted to two charges.  It took Sunderland until the following day to sack him.  Surely they had been taking legal action from March 2015 and should be prepared for this eventuality?  It would appear that they were not.  With a typically short statement from Sunderland, the sort which has typified their arms length handling of the saga, they announced they had terminated his contract.

Sunderland must have thought that this would be the end of it for them.  A further statement was then to be released when the allegations that Byrne knew substantially more than what the public was lead to believe she did trying to extinguish the flames of a scandal.

Sunderland’s statement revolves arounds the pleas that Johnson was to make.  It sounds to me like SAFC is saying ‘We will support you and pay you as long as you plead not guilty but plead guilty and we will sack you’.   The message should be ‘We are a family club and care greatly about our young supporters – they are the future of our club.  We will not tolerate any member of our staff, player or otherwise, abusing their position within the club.  Due to this we have sacked Mr Johnson with immediate effect and apologies to the young supporter and her family for any distress this as caused’.

The fact that this case went to court and the girl in question, who idolised Johnson, was put through hell (as detailed in the court proceedings) should have been enough for Sunderland to protect this fan ahead of a predatory player.

Johnson received a reported £2,000,000 in wages whilst on bail.  Even when he is released he should be financially safe.  For the victim she has nothing and feels unable to go back to the club she loved.

It seems to me that Sunderland AFC put their investment in Johnson and their financial interests in staying in the Premier League ahead of their morals and image of a family friendly club.

Even now, after the trial, they are batting off criticism and closing ranks, trying to get on with business as usual.  There seems to be no support for the victim when the club itself was the gateway for Johnson to groom and sexually assault the 15 year old child.  They are absolving themselves of any responsibility whatsoever and Margaret Byrne’s silence is also telling.

Byrne needs to resign or face questions from the press regarding this matter.

If I was a Sunderland fan I would not be happy with how the Johnson saga has been handled and I would demand either change or answers.  The only way fans can do this is to stay away from the games.  If 4,000 fans turned up to the next home game rather than 40,000 the club would realise that they have a problem.  Clubs nowadays can behave how they want as us, the fans, or the lemmings, just turn up regardless due to some misplaced loyalty and how we think we are letting down the eleven players on the pitch if we don’t support them.  Problem is that without the fans there wouldn’t be any players on the pitch.  Sunderland, as every day passes and they keep quiet about this, are insulting every fan of the club.

I personally would not be able to attend matches whilst Byrne was at the helm without apologising and explaining or resigning.  I know the CEO or the Board isn’t the club, they come and go, but so do players.

I’m a Boro fan and our Chairman, Steve Gibson IS our club.  I support Boro, Steve Gibson and then the playing staff.

Do the right thing Sunderland fans, stand up for the image and morality or your club.  It is much more important than anything else.  Do you want to be the club who chants ‘Adam Johnson, he shags who he wants’ or the club that took a stand against the CEO who morally bankrupted the club?

Sail Assisted Cycling?

Saw a recumbent trike at Roots on Sunday sporting a sail.  Now I’m no expert but surely that is illegal!  A big gust of wind or the draft of a passing truck could have a real bad outcome.

And Strava!  Is he putting his rides on Strava?  That’s wind doping gone mad!

Needless to say he was ‘riding’ on his own.  I’m not surprised.  If any of my mates turned up on a machine like that they would be going out on their own!