Monthly Archives: November 2017

Sports personality of 2017?


Sadly, I didn’t make the short list … or long list … or any list. With minimal prowess at pool, 10 pin, table football, (dominos – couldn’t find the trophies), cribbage and karting, I fail to see why.

OK, this is a bit parochially British as it’s the BBC’s award – but US friends might be pleased to know that Tom Brady, Katie Ledecky and Tatyana McFadden are among the candidates for the overseas award (but watch out for Roger Federer who has a very large fan base over here). No doubt Tom Brady is already losing sleep over whether or not he will win – clearly it would be the crowning glory to his career!

The 12 candidates for the main prize (presented on 17th December) are all very skilled and dedicated sports people – and certainly worthy of their places on the list (seven of them world champions or multiple world champions, such as Mo Farah, Adam Peaty, Elise Christie and Jonathan Rae). I’d love to have even a small fraction of the abilities of any of them but, with respect to the others, for me there are really 3 main contenders: Chris Froome, Lewis Hamilton and Anthony Joshua.

It’s probably worth saying that sports ‘personality’ might be a bit of a misnomer. Really it’s an achievement and popularity contest – personality is not quite as important as the award title might suggest (Andy Murray – undoubtedly a very fine tennis player – has won three times …. enough said).

Pinning my colours to the mast, I love cycling, I like F1 and I’m not really enamoured with boxing – but trying to put that personal prejudice aside, how can a sensible choice be made between them?

Hamilton is one of the best drivers of his generation – perhaps of any generation – but he has the disadvantage of being in a sport where your personal abilities are not enough, you need to have a great car. Hamilton wouldn’t have won the world title driving a McLaren, or a Renault, or a Haas this year. Equally it’s not all about the car because Bottas (a very good driver) failed to beat Hamilton on the majority of occasions, despite also having the Mercedes beneath him.

F1 has lost some of it’s competitiveness and sparkle in recent years and is perhaps too inaccessible to most fans (locations, prices and driver lifestyles) – it will even be off free-to-air TV soon in the UK so the pressure is on it as a sport.

Froome has the advantage over Hamilton that the technology in cycling does not create the clear-cut advantage that it does in F1. The Pinarello is a fine bike but there are UCI weight limits, most teams seem to use Dura Ace and I’m not sure any bike in the Grand Tours is significantly better than any other.

Froome’s double of Le Tour and the Vuelta was magnificent, and to win 4 TdFs puts him up with the very best. His difficulties in the Sports Personality competition probably include: Team Sky’s poor handling of the Therapeutic Use Exemptions matter, and the continuing stigma of doping in the sport; being part of a Sky Team that win too much for many people’s liking; Sky’s ‘marginal gains’ philosophy which is efficient but not thrilling; and the view of many that Chris himself is bland and too indebted to the strength of the team.

Joshua won the WBA world heavyweight title this year to add to his IBF title – then successfully defended them both in October. Great achievements and ones delivered in one of the hardest and most basic of environments, mano-a-mano.

The trophy is awarded after a public vote so, as I say, much depends on the individual’s popularity and the public’s interest in, and understanding of, the sport involved. I guess that probably makes Joshua the favourite – and if he was putting his case to me in person, I’m sure I’d be quick to agree ….

…. but personal prejudice and preference runs deep and it’s Chris Froome who would get my vote. With a combined six weeks of sustained pressure and extreme exertion, achieving what only two men had done before in the Vuelta/Tour double and getting to four TdF victories (with three in a row and four in five years), he has joined the all-time greats in my eyes.

Who knows, if he wins the Giro, the Vuelta and the Tour in 2018, he might get wider credit and recognition.

He might even get second place in Sports Personality 2018, as runner up to a member of the team that won the 6-a-side Ridgeway Cribbage League of 1988 …….. now, who could that be?


Froome goes for the Giro in 2018


I’m really surprised that Chris Froome has announced that he is entering the Giro d’Italia in 2018. The race starts on 4th May (in Jerusalem of all places) and ends in Rome on the 27th.

It’s not surprising that he would want to win the one Grand Tour that has eluded him so far – all the more so next year as winning it would see him become only the third man to hold all three GC titles at the same time. Joining Eddy Merckx and Bernard Hinault with that honour would see him in pretty illustrious company!

The more surprising thing is that he would attempt the Giro having seen what participating in it it seemed to do to Nairo Quintana’s Tour de France this year. Perhaps it was simply the temptation of a route that seem so suit him well – with three individual time trials – but I was assuming that he would not prejudice his attempt, in July, to join the five time winners of Le Tour.

Maybe it demonstrates the level of his confidence in his own abilities (and those of the team around him). He’s quoted as being excited at the new challenge but I’ve always regarded him as more of a careful, calculating, racer whose key motivation is winning.

Whatever the reason, it’s just another reason to be looking forward to the Grand Tours of 2018.

I for one hope he can do the Giro/Tour double. What odds on him adding the Vuelta to that?

Forgive the heresy ……. but could the formula ever be n-1?


Some of my bikes

I’m a big fan of Shakespeare – I may be one of the few not to have been put off him forever by ‘doing Shakespeare’ in English at school.

I like the ‘7 ages of man’ speech but am realizing that if he’d lived in a more modern, material world he might have also included the ‘7 ages of materiality’.


Ah – some more of my bikes

The ages, as far as I see them, are:

  • first age, having loads of stuff bought for you as a child
  • second age, wanting loads of stuff as a teenager but not having the cash to buy it;
  • third age (if you are lucky), acquiring some cash and the stuff that it buys;
  • fourth age, arrival of children and the acquisition of stuff for them;
  • fifth age, getting children off the balance sheet and acquiring more stuff for yourself;
  • sixth age realization that you really don’t need everything you’ve spent so long (and so much) acquiring and a dawning that you’d leave one hell of a mess for your children to clear out when you’re gone, leading to the start of a process of de-cluttering
  • seventh age, (I hope) being happy with what you’ve got.

We’ve entered the sixth age recently. It’s quite therapeutic, even though it is a bit depressing to have reached stage six out of seven – I’m just hoping that stage 7 is a particularly long one.

It’s all been brought home to us through the process of clearing out my mother-in-law’s house – not a huge place any means but still a massive undertaking. The scale of the challenge for our own place was highlighted by the realization that, with garden furniture and the contents of garages, sheds and outbuildings, we’d probably fill a removal lorry before we moved on to the house itself.

Mrs Omil has been doing a great job on the house while I’ve shuffled paper around in the study (and moved furniture inexpertly, leading to the sciatica).

I am now starting to confront the garages and sheds.


Oh – these are some more of my bikes – in the box is a Masi Prestige frame (an Italian one). The 1974 Colnago Super frame and forks are too good for a shed and are in the house

Part of the problem is that I have inherited a hoarding gene from my father. His principle was “I’ll keep it because it will come in handy, even if I never use it”. I think this is worsened by the fact that I’m from a less disposable-oriented age – I don’t like throwing away things that still work.


… you get the picture

The solution, in part, has been raising the bar in terms of exactly how useful things really are, and loads of stuff being given to the local charity shops.

What all this has done is make me focus on the difference between ‘need’ and ‘want’ – it’s easy to confuse the two. I’m sure everybody will have a different take on this but, for me, I’m wondering if there might be a rule that says a happy balance could be achieved by having as much as you can of what you truly need, and perhaps only 10% of what you want.

This brings me back to clearing the garages and sheds and confronting the 25+ bikes I have stored there.

Of course, it is unthinkable to get rid of bikes or bike parts or cycling kit. This can be avoided simply by putting such things firmly in the ‘need’ category.

However, I constantly buy things I already have because I can’t put my hands on them when they are needed (sets of allen keys are the prime example of this – I must have 6 sets somewhere). Some clearing out might actually help me with a bit of organisation – this is Mrs O’s forcefully expressed opinion. I hate to admit it but this just might be an example of ‘less is more’ and I am weakening.

I have started to think the unthinkable – could there ever be a case for the rule ‘n-1’ ????

Sciatica – the nerve of it


No cycling, no cycling photos. We planted the willow 10 years ago and the fir was one of our first Christmas trees here, planted out c.20 years ago.

It’s been two weeks since my last post – normally there would be rides or runs to talk about but the sciatica has put paid to any of that. I can’t remember the last time I went so long without proper exercise but at least it’s coincided with a spell of cold weather so perhaps I’ve not missed out too much.


To me, it feels like a Northerly, not a Westerly. I hope the plane is taking people somewhere warm.

The fall off the bike hasn’t been much of an issue – tenderness on the road rash and the bruising for a few days but that’s all healed well with nice new pink skin on the elbow and hip.

The sciatica, on the other hand, has been much nastier. It started with really sharp pain in the lower back/left buttock/thigh – particularly bad first thing in the morning and whenever getting up for any time spent sitting. Apart from that, it would ease once I was moving and that meant I could even run and ride with it for the first few days. It didn’t play any part in my fall off the bike – but ironically if it had been bad enough to stop me riding in those early days I’d have saved myself a crash.

I don’t know if that meant I overdid it but it then developed into more of a constant dull ache – enlivened by occasional bouts of the old searing pain if I moved in the wrong way.

Perhaps the worst thing has been that it’s been impossible to work out exactly what made it hurt less or more – sometimes sitting would aggravate it, sometimes it would help.

It’s meant that I can’t even do any useful exercises so I’ve piled on a few pounds and have felt rather listless. The best thing has been that neither injury has really stopped me from sleeping well.

One bright spot has been that I’ve been able to cycle vicariously through some great blogs – many thanks to the authors, including: jim @ fitrecovery, Mark and Rachel @ twobritsandatent, Klem @ tempocyclist, Brady? @ baldbrady and Josh Day @ cyclingfordays. Great work folks.

I’m surprised how many people suffer from sciatica – almost every time someone asks why I’m limping I get a knowing look and a story about how how they too had suffered. The knowledge that I’m not alone is not really helping – other than the fact that they all seem to have recovered.

After three weeks it’s a good deal better – but not quite fully right. I’m hopeful of doing something this coming week but am taking it carefully (bordering on being sensible) as I really don’t want to aggravate it.

A note of caution: if you are struggling to think of something to buy a loved one for Christmas, sciatica is not the answer.


Good injuries and bad injuries


The blessed turf of Lord’s (and the media centre), late afternoon – from the holy of holies, the Long Room

I really don’t like this being unwell nonsense.

I think part of it is that it’s a very rare sensation for me – I didn’t have a day’s illness in my last 15 years working and even since retirement I don’t think I’ve been ill enough to have missed a day if I had been working.

The sciatica has come as a real pain the arse (literally and metaphorically) but was improving by the end of last week.

The bruises and scrapes from Thursday’s fall made sleeping a bit more difficult that night but are healing really quickly and on Friday, having taken the train up to London, I walked to and from Lord’s Cricket Ground. I was there thanks to a generous invite from one of my brothers-in-law to a ‘sporting’ lunch in the Long Room. A great occasion – a fine meal, very entertaining speakers and really good company around the table.

I don’t know if I overdid it, but since then the sciatica has been worse. No cycling yesterday (good to have an excuse as it was raining) but two of the friends I cycle with in France came for supper (with wives). One of them was Philip, the GP, who confirmed my diagnosis of sciatica.

So, a bruised sciatic nerve that will take a few weeks to get better. The problem is that it really hurts every time I get up after a few minutes of sitting and everyone thoroughly enjoyed my discomfort (in a caring, sharing sort of way) last night as I struggled to get up to refill glasses, clear plates and make coffee.

The worst thing is that I think I’d get more sympathy if it was the cycling accident that had caused the real problems. True, I might look like a bit of an idiot for having come off but at least it would have been in the relatively noble pursuit of outdoor, healthy activity. The sciatica just came from inexpert moving of heavy furniture – where’s the nobility in that?

If you do feel the need to get injured, make sure it’s the right sort of injury. I’m sure ingrowing toenails hurt badly but they won’t induce sympathy – go for a torn cartilage making an heroic goal/try saving tackle.

Avoid trapping the finger in the car door and go for the sprained ankle on the parachute jump landing.

Or, better still, just stay safe out there.

Ouch! So that’s why Americans call the autumn ‘fall’


The front wheel looks pretty straight from here – sadly, looks can be deceptive

Well, that’s not the greatest week I’ve had for a while.

Wednesday last I was moving some furniture and think I’ve given myself a bit of sciatica (self diagnosed so not necessarily accurate). I managed to run with it on Thursday and cycle with it on Saturday as, once it warms up, it’s perfectly bearable and no problem at all on the bike.

I ran again yesterday before we went to have an excellent supper with some friends who also very kindly put us up for the night in Berkshire. Julia is an astonishing sportswoman and suggested that I take my bike and join her and some Tri-club and other friends for their Thursday morning ride.

It was a really good ride (87km – 54 miles), done at a good pace, with good company. Unfortunately, as we were heading back we went round an entirely innocuous looking bend that the two or three folks in front of me took at the same speed, on the same line and without excitement – but I failed to follow suit. My front wheel simply slid away from under me and as I looked up from the road I saw the following rider going over me and the bike, before also hitting the deck.

Fortunately, as to the three important things (in clear order of importance):

– happily, the other rider, a charming lady, escaped any serious injury (I think nothing more than a bruise from the fall and a tiny cut at the side of the eye from her crash helmet)

– my bike is not hurt too badly. The already deteriorating bar tape has been finished off on the right side and once the handlebars were rotated back 90 degrees it was rideable – but slowly thanks to a front wheel buckle

– I’m OK and the bang and road rash on my right hip means that I am now more balanced with the sciatica in my left leg. The banged and scraped right elbow and banged right hand have no left side equivalents but that’s OK by me.

I’m optimistic that the wheel is repairable. It’s rather annoying as I was thinking of putting on the winter wheels earlier in the week – the only reason that I didn’t was that I wasn’t sure how fast today’s ride would be and I was concerned that I might need all the help I could get to keep up!

The road was no more than slightly damp and I don’t think it was muddy or covered in leaves. I really like the (new) Continental 4000 Sii tyres I have on the bike but I’m left wondering how good they are once the weather starts to worsen – I’ve never seen any suggestion that they are a problem. Pretty much inexplicable – I guess I was just unlucky and hit a patch of oil.

It appears that a fall hurts the same whatever the reason for coming down.

First fall in four and a half years – I’ll be happy if it’s another four and a half years before the next.

Chim chiminee


I really must put mudguards (fenders) on the bike

Gawd luv yer, Mary Poppins – (sorry but I think I was so scarred by Dick Van Dyke’s cockney accent in the film that I can’t hear the word ‘sweep’ without thinking of him).

One particularly good thing we did last year was to introduce a sweep for our club rides. We have a rota and, with turns to lead the shorter and slower ‘blue’ ride as well, it works out about 3 or 4 duties a year.

As the club has progressed over the years, we have seen an increasing range of abilities and expectations. The red rides are usually between 42 and 47 miles (67-75km) and the faster riders will average around 18mph (29kph). Groups tend to form based on rider speed, but to maintain the social side of the club, but we re-gather after about 10 miles and again for a halfway ‘banana break’. That allows people to switch between groups – and that’s important as the fastest group tends to ride quite hard on the run back to Faringdon.

The sweep fulfils a number of functions – first as a safety net in case anyone has a mechanical or other problem and secondly as a way of checking that we don’t lose anyone. I tend to think the rule ‘leave no man behind’ should apply to more than just the military.

Perhaps most importantly, we want to encourage people into – or back into – cycling as a hobby. Newer cyclists wanting to progress beyond the blue ride may not be able to keep up with the faster riders and may not yet have invested in a Garmin or other satnav, so the sweep plays an important role in providing encouragement, company, reassurance and navigation for them.

It was my turn to be sweep for the club’s ‘red’ ride this morning. It was a simple case of bad news/good news:

Bad news – it was raining hard when I woke up.

Bad news – as red sweep I decided I had to go (a commitment is a commitment)

Bad news – I’d hoped no one would turn out but there were 6 others for the red ride

Good news – they were all experienced riders so we rode together as one group

Good news – everyone else had mudguards (fenders)

Good news – it stopped raining, eventually

Bad news – we all got cold while a puncture was being fixed

Good news – it was a really good ride, one I’d have missed if it had been just up to me!

A fairly gentle 70km (43.5 miles) at about 24kph (15mph) – not a day for heroics.